Relieved. Anxious. Ecstatic. Across England, there are a huge range of first-day emotions as schools prepare to reopen on Monday – and that’s just the parents.
While some say they are happy to wave goodbye to home-schooling and are ready to reclaim their own lives, others feel anxious at the thought of their children mixing with classmates again.
We asked four parents – two mums and two dads – how they were feeling as schools go back.
‘Finally, a coffee in peace’
Stacie, from Devon, says she is “excited” for her son to return to school on Monday – and she’s ready for five minutes’ peace.
She laughs as she says she’s not “the brightest button academically”, and says it has been a struggle to home-school her nine-year-old son.
It’s been so hard – there’s been tears and tantrums. I have so much respect for teachers
“It’s been so hard – there’s been tears and tantrums. I have so much respect for teachers”, she says. “I’ve got no doubt that once he goes back to his friends and a proper teacher – because I am no teacher – he’ll be loving it.”
Like many parents, she is pleased she can get some of her own time back. “Having a coffee in peace – it’ll be beautiful”, she says.
The extra time means she can also focus on getting her café running again. It opened last February, weeks before the first lockdown hit.
“It’s affected us money wise, but now I’ll be able to concentrate on how I’m going to re-open, set up new menus and do more hours for the takeaway.”
Tasneem, from Ilford, was “ecstatic” when she first heard schools were going back. The mum-of-two laughs as she describes home-schooling her sons as “one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to do”.
She has been balancing working from home, teaching and what she calls her everyday “mummy duties”. “It’s been really challenging and stressful. As mums, we are all used to multi-tasking anyway. But I work and I’m studying as well and I’ve got a whole household to run. When you add home-schooling to that list, it just becomes really stressful for anybody.”
They are two very energetic boys who have been cooped up, and it’s not been great weather either so they haven’t been able to go out. They’ve been missing their friends
She says home-learning was “disruptive” for her youngest child, who had only just started school and didn’t get to complete a whole term. She worries it will be tough getting him back into a routine again, but says it will be good for their “own sanity”.
“They are two very energetic boys who have been cooped up, and it’s not been great weather either so they haven’t been able to go out. They’ve been missing their friends, but at least at school they can interact”, Tasneem says.
“The older one is really excited he cannot wait to see his friends. He’s actually been getting headaches, red eyes and his neck is hurting because he’s been hunched over the desk – I can only can think it’s the extra screen time.
“Even right now as I’m talking he is saying in the background ‘I miss my school’. Right now, my priority is their mental health.”
‘Testing should be everyday’
Not all parents are not jumping for joy. John, a single dad from Bristol, has mixed feelings about his seven-year-old son returning to school full-time.
He has diabetes and very high blood glucose levels, so needs to shield. “I’m relieved, but scared”, he says. “Yes, it’s a risk, but I think it’s a risk worth taking.”
I think all children should be receiving testing – if they did it on all kids, at least we know that they’ll be okay on that day. The testing should be every day
John says his son is “happy” at the thought of being able to play with his friends again, but he worries he has got too used to being at home with him all the time. He also thinks the government guidance is not completely clear and says he is concerned not all school children are being tested. Only pupils in secondary schools in England will be tested for Covid-19.
“I think all children should be receiving testing – if they did it on all kids, at least we know that they’ll be okay on that day. The testing should be every day.”
‘Make me feel safe’
“Disappointed”, says Antonio, from London, when asked about his thoughts on pupils returning to school. He prefers the gradual move towards full-time schooling in Scotland.
“Nicola Sturgeon has a phased approach and that was the approach the government took last time, so I don’t understand why they took such an abrupt approach this time”, he says.
Antonio and his 10-year-old son both have asthma, and his wife is also six months pregnant. He thinks it is “not wise” to send children back at once.
Nicola Sturgeon has a phased approach and that was the approach the government took last time, so I don’t understand why they took such an abrupt approach this time
“I’m not trying to live in fear”, he says, but says he would be “distraught” if his son brought the virus home. “I don’t think necessary precautions are being put in place to make me feel safe.”
Antonio admits home-schooling has “not been easy”, but says he would still rather his son stayed at home. Instead he says he’s been talking to his son about staying safe – by washing his hands, using hand sanitizer, and keeping his hands away from his month.
“I think my son would be excited to see his friends but I think he’s a little bit concerned himself because he’s quite aware that if he became ill, he wouldn’t be able to go anywhere near my wife who’s pregnant,” he adds. “That’s a lot for a child – all sons go to their mummies for comfort.”