Parentkind supports every parent’s right to decide when it is safe for their child to return to school

03/07/20

Parentkind believes that the government’s announcement made yesterday that fines will be levied at parents for their child’s non-attendance once schools reopen in September will be counterproductive. The punitive approach cuts parents out of the national conversation about education, and disenfranchises them of their status as stakeholders. We are currently consulting parents about their recent experience of school closures and on their right to choose.

Parentkind coronavirus and school closures surveys

Since schools closed their doors to most pupils in March, we have regularly surveyed parental opinion throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland to find out:

  • how most are coping with the additional demand governments have placed on them to supervise their child’s home-learning
  • whether or not they are receiving all of the support and resources they need from schools and government
  • what stresses the suspension of schooling is putting on family life.

The previous survey, which received an overwhelming 257,000+ responses (closed 4th May), revealed that: 

  • 10% of parents would only be happy for their child to return to school once staff and pupils have been vaccinated, even if this takes 12-18 months
  • 40% of parents do not wish to consider a timeframe until safety is assured, whether that’s from government or school leaders/teachers.

How well has the government handled the crisis in education? 

We believe that parents’ concerns should be taken into consideration in the decision-making process. The current survey, which remains open and has an additional questionnaire for parents of children with SEND, also asks parents for their view on:

  • how well the government has handled the school closures crisis overall, and
  • whether or not they believe parents should have the right to decide when their child returns to school under these circumstances.

The results will be shared with policymakers, education stakeholders and media.

Do parents want the right to choose when their child returns? 

Early indications suggest that the majority of parents want the right to decide whether or not it is safe to return their children to school. The charity welcomes the government’s recognition of this parental right in relation to children and families where someone is shielding or where there are health issues, but believes that all parents should have a fundamental right to be consulted and choose, whatever the medical circumstances at home.

Commenting on today’s new guidance for schools, John Jolly, CEO of Parentkind, said, “I am deeply concerned by the government in England’s intention to fine some parents from September for pupil non-attendance at school. The unprecedented coronavirus crisis and the suspension of schooling for most pupils has been a difficult time for the whole nation. Now that government has unveiled plans to return all children to the classroom in September, it should be the time to concentrate on catch-up, on providing mental health support to young people adjusting to a new normal, and on offering parents reassurances about safety and the impact school closures have had on their child’s learning.”

In relation to keeping parents informed, on side and a key player in their child’s education, John Jolly went on to say, “Returning to ‘business as usual’ parental fines for pupil non-attendance sets the wrong tone. There is widespread uncertainty among parents about what schools will look like in September, with government stating children will be in school full-time and schools sending parents plans for part-time ‘blended’ classroom learning. To avoid confusing and angering parents further, plans must be put into place to ensure parents are consulted at school level and nationally about schools re-opening. In England, parents’ views have been largely ignored, in contrast to Northern Ireland and Wales, where parent’s views and concerns have been a key part of the governments’ decision-making. We urge policymakers in England to adopt a more conciliatory approach with parents that acknowledges their right to be consulted and make choices when it comes to their child’s education.”

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