Weekly Poll – Reopening of Schools
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 22 February 2021, we asked a question about reopening of schools.
Do you have any concerns about the phased return to school for pupils across Scotland?
- YES – 45% (38 respondents)
- NO – 55% (46 respondents)
We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Compliance with Guidance
As schools begin to reopen through a phased approach, some respondents were concerned by the risk of young people picking up the virus and passing it on to family members. Respondents stressed the need for parents and guardians to comply with COVID-19 guidance, such as maintaining physical distancing and avoid mixing with others when dropping off and collecting their children.
“As a grandparent with the mother and granddaughter living with us, I am concerned about our 8 year old being in school and mixing with other kids before the virus is properly under control, particularly as we are both nearly 70 and vulnerable.”
“My children have Additional Support Needs (ASN) and considered vulnerable so have been in school the whole time. It felt very busy this week with the extra kids in. It is hard to distance in the playground at pick up time, and people are tempted to chat. I’m worried cases will go up as parents drop their guard and hang around chatting or will organise play dates etc.”
“The big issue might come from parents dropping and picking up the pupils. They could easily mix with other parents and try to do their usual routine of chatting. They need to be strict and only drop off and then leave school. No mixing and no car sharing.”
“I would prefer a blended model for smaller class sizes and less people at the school at any one time.”
One respondent was worried by how physical distancing could be maintained on school transport.
“I am very concerned that physical distancing on school buses is impossible because my local council says they have no funding available to provide additional school buses. I will not be sending children to school because the school buses are badly overcrowded with standing room only.”
Mental Health and Wellbeing
A large proportion of respondents recognised the impact of school closures on the mental wellbeing of pupils, parents, guardians, teachers, and support staff. Some respondents believed that pupils returning to school will help to regain some form of routine, which may have a positive impact on the mental wellbeing of young people. It is vital that support remains in place to monitor the wellbeing of all staff and pupils throughout the phased return.
“There is definitely a large impact on mental health and wellbeing for all the family members, as there is a lot of stress and strain during the lockdown restrictions which have made it worse to home school.”
“Too much is being left for parents and carers to do themselves. It is having an impact on mental health and wellbeing.”
“Children are learning, connecting with peers, receiving support all online and they are very quickly feeling the effects of digital fatigue. Mental health is low.”
“It is important that there are some interactions at school for mental health and wellbeing, especially younger years.”
“Mental health and wellbeing of the teachers affected is being ignored.”
With remote learning continuing alongside the phased return of young people to schools, respondents reflected on the continued need to provide support to pupils, parents, and guardians.
“I think remote learning is still an issue with accessibility issues and technology/equipment not available to vulnerable people.”
“Our local council gave all kids iPads, which sounds fab to do lessons, but how many parents know how to use technology? For example, ‘send the kids work on Teams’?”
“Children from families with better equipment and parents that have the time certainly will have an advantage over those from working families who have to try and make do.”
“I don’t feel there is enough support for distance learning and infrastructure is not available in all areas and slow internet is a major problem!”
Additional Support Needs
There were specific concerns from respondents regarding the level of support in place for young people with Additional Support Needs (ASN). Concerns ranged from the level of support that has been made available for remote learning, and uncertainty around the mechanisms in place for one-to-one support to continue in classrooms.
“There has been zero support for my daughter with Additional Support Needs whilst I have been shielding. My daughter is in primary 4 and cannot read or write due to her learning difficulties and I have had no help on how to teach someone with learning difficulties how to do this. We are just expected to try and keep up with the class level of distance learning which we can’t.”
“There is not enough support for children. As a father of a daughter with additional support needs, I can say there has been no significant contact from the school at all, apart from one 30 minute Zoom call a week.”
“My child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and refuses to home school. After a battle with the school and local education board, my son is now in school two days at a local Hub. This involved social work and health visitor and has only happened in the last two weeks.”
“Children with Additional Support Needs are being neglected as they have been for several years, long before the virus and lockdowns. The resources are simply not there. What resources that were in place, were cut back a few years ago with the reduction of Special Educational Needs teachers and support workers.”
“There is enough online learning, but it does not match the face-to-face support they would receive in school. My child struggles with maths and she would benefit from a one-to-one or smaller class tutorial.”
In conclusion, respondents recognised the importance of young people returning to school, so that they have greater support and interaction from teachers. Pupils may also benefit from learning alongside their peers, which could have a positive impact on their mental wellbeing. However, there were ongoing concerns about the risk of the virus spreading amongst young people to their families. It is therefore vital for pupils, parents and their guardians to comply with the ongoing COVID-19 guidance, including physical distancing. There must also be continued support for young people with Additional Support Needs and those who continue to access schoolwork remotely during the phased return.