Coronavirus: Barking and Dagenham parents and teachers share thoughts on school reopening plans

Children will have to follow social distancing measures in school. Picture: Jacob King/PA

Children will have to follow social distancing measures in school. Picture: Jacob King/PA - Credit: PA

Pupils should not return to school this academic year.

That’s the verdict of almost 90 per cent of Barking and Dagenham residents - the majority being parents and teachers - who completed our survey.

Almost two thirds - 64.16pc - said they thought it would be safe for pupils to return in September, with an additional 25.66 saying children should only go back to the classroom once a vaccination for the coronavirus vaccine has been found.

Just 7.52pc are in favour of following the government’s plan for some primary school pupils - those in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 - to go back as early as June 1. The remainder thought July was a suitable start date.

The survey, carried out by the Post and its sister titles in east London, saw more than 900 people share their opinions on issues surrounding when pupils should return to school, how easy home-schooling was and if universities should accept students who have not set exams due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of these, 226 identified as being from Barking and Dagenham.

There was a lower proportion of Barking and Dagenham residents favouring a June or July start date - 10.17pc - than the London-wide average of 12.33pc.

Meanwhile, 27.8pc of respondents from the borough said that universities should not accept first year students who have not sat exams, with this summer’s sitting cancelled to halt the spread of coronavirus. This is higher than the east London-wide average of 24pc.

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Pupils who were due to sit exams including A-levels and GCSE this summer will instead receive a calculated grade, with teachers asked to submit a judgement on what they feel each pupil would have achieved had the exams gone ahead, taking into account factors such as mock tests, classwork and homework.

The government has said that those due to sit exams this summer may also sit an exam early in the next academic year if they wish to do so, or in the summer of 2021.

Many of those to respond to our survey also offered their thoughts on the issues.

A teaching assistant from Dagenham, who works in a special needs school, said: “Although we currently have a small number of students in, I do not feel that it will be safe for a full school return as there is no possible way to social distance when working with SEN children.”

A Dagenham parent added: “You can’t separate children from playing at playtime and you can’t during lunch times, it’s impossible to do so, plus some parents use buses to get their children to school too so the buses will be more packed.”

However, one parent from Dagenham was against the policy of keeping children at home entirely, saying: “Schools should have never been shut.”

Schools have been closed since March to all except the children of key workers and those considered most vulnerable, with the vast majority of pupils having to learn at home.

Some parents described feeling conflicted between their child’s education and health. One, from Barking, said: “I want my son to go back to school but I’m frightened he may get the virus.”

Another added: “It has not been easy home schooling my children but the risk of them going back to school is not worth it especially with the emergence of this new Kawasaki-like disease affecting children.”

Of those who responded to our survey, just over a third - 33.8pc - graded home schooling as a three out of five in terms of how difficult they were finding it. That was slightly less than the east London-wide average of 35.3pc.

One parent told how they were having to juggle working from home and educating their children using just one laptop between four people.

They said: “It may be hard to home school and work from home, I have to try and do it every day and now the printer has blown up, some are having to hand write everything but I will not be sending my children back until I feel it’s safe.”

One parent branded the support from their child’s school as “extremely poor,” adding: “They just send us packs of nonsense, no effort to actually teach children online. Sometimes they send these packs late too.”

If you would like to have your say on when schools should reopen, email and your thoughts could appear on our letters page.