• Type:
  • Genre:
  • Duration:
  • Average Rating:

COVID 19

Poll reveals half of parents unconvinced that school is safe for their children’s return

Michael Savage | Sun 24 May 2020 02.41 EDT

Teachers’ union leader warns situation ‘untenable’ as health officials say track and trace system has been left too late

An empty playground at Milton St. John’s Primary School in Mossley, Greater Manchester.
 An empty playground at Milton St. John’s Primary School in Mossley, Greater Manchester. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Parents are divided over the prospect of sending their children back to school, a new poll has revealed, as parent groups warned that mixed messages and poor communication had caused widespread anxiety about returning.

With school leaders still grappling with the practicalities of reopening primary schools for some year groups in just a week’s time in England, an Opinium poll for the Observer found that 43 per cent of primary school parents and 54 per cent of secondary school parents feel anxious about the prospects of returning.

Primary schools have been instructed to prepare to bring back reception, year 1 and year 6 classes, as well as their early years provision. However, councils of all political colours have suggested they will not follow the advice, while Welsh and Scottish schools will wait to reopen.

There are now also concerns that the return of pupils has become such a chaotic issue that it could worsen the attainment gap between affluent and poor areas and families. Some teaching unions have suggested the families of vulnerable children have been more reluctant to see them return to school. David Laws, the former education minister who now oversees the Education Policy Institute, said that a widening divide was a “significant risk”

John Jolly, chief executive of the parent group Parentkind, said there was confusion about the reopening of schools. “Parents are looking for certainty,” he said. “Some want the certainty of saying schools are safe and we’re going back. Some want the certainty of keeping children out of school until there is a vaccine, which may reflect families with underlying conditions. Then you have other parents that want a clear timeline.

“Parents are not convinced about messages around schools being safe. They are not sure about that message from the government, or that the evidence for that is being communicated. There is a lot of uncertainty about the message being communicated by schools locally.”

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warned the situation on the ground was now “chaotic and increasingly untenable”. “Not only are school leaders having to think about how to reopen schools, but how they convince parents that their children should go back, and organise the school site. Then they don’t know how many staff they will have. Schools are vital for society. But they have to be safe.”Advertisement

However, professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said schools should be allowed to reopen. “Covid-19 generally barely affects children and young people and actually we’ve shown that they are about half as susceptible,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “There is no doubt in my mind for children themselves, the balances are clearly in favour of going back to school.” He said the risks to family and the community could be managed with an effective track and trace system and a phased return.

While a working track and trace system is seen as necessary for rules around schools and other parts of the lockdown to be loosened, several local government sources warned that councils were now facing a race against time. There have been complaints that local public health officials have been sidelined during the pandemic, despite their expertise. They are now being drafted in as part of several pilots of the track and trace system, but insiders warn they now face huge time pressures.

Professor Donna Hall, head of the New Local Government Network, said: “At the beginning of March, public health directors were quite rapidly cut out of the national pandemic response. They are there for all aspects of public health, working on things like HIV, hepatitis, pandemic flu. Disease control is their job. They are highly skilled … but they’ve been cut out in quite a strange way.

“Other countries have deployed local resilience forums for testing and tracing. A national contact centre is never going to get to the granular detail you need for contact tracing. I’ve been out with the people who do it – they are forensic. You won’t get that through an app. It is people on the ground, observing how a disease spreads. It could be from a petrol pump or a salt shaker. That’s the kind of detail needed.

“They may be piloting things, but we’ve left it really late for that. Not giving local government a big role is foolish and dangerous.”

We would love to hear from you, have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email it to throughlovewelearn@gmail.com. 

Judge demands ICE better explain why it won’t release 350 parents, children

By Nomaan MerchantUpdated 31 minutes ago

MerchantUpdated 31 minutes ago

Doctors and others protest conditions that detainees being held by ICE face outside of the Broward Transitional Center, during the COVID-19 crisis, May 1, in Pompano Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)HOUSTON — A federal judge on Friday criticized the Trump administration’s handling of detained immigrant children and families, ordering the government to give the court detailed information about its efforts to quickly release them in the wake of the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee on Friday ordered the U.S. government to better explain why it hasn’t released some of the approximate 350 parents and children in three family detention centers.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has come under fire for allegedly asking parents in custody if they would allow their children to be released without them.

Parents at all three facilities — one in Pennsylvania and two in Texas — were called into short meetings and asked if there were sponsors available to care for their children, lawyers who represent the families reported that late last week. They were then asked to sign a form.

ICE has declined to release the form.

Gee wrote that she didn’t find that ICE officially sought to get those formal waivers, but that officers’ conversations with detained parents “caused confusion and unnecessary emotional upheaval and did not appear to serve the agency’s legitimate purpose of making continuous individualized inquiries regarding efforts to release minors.”

While some parents reported slightly different details, the lawyers said they broadly believed they were being asked to choose between staying in custody with their children or letting their children leave.

“They were asking mothers to separate from their 1-year-old infants to go to a sponsor that perhaps had never even met or known the child,” said Bridget Cambria, executive director of the group ALDEA, which represents families at the ICE detention center in Leesport, Pennsylvania.

The Trump administration again faced allegations that it is trying to separate immigrant families as part of an overall border crackdown. The separation of immigrant families drew bipartisan condemnation in 2018 when the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy on southern border crossings.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement accused advocates of making “misrepresentations” and says it remains in compliance with President Donald Trump’s June 2018 executive order intended to stop family separation. In a statement Thursday, the agency said the form was used as part of a “routine parole review consistent with the law” and Gee’s previous orders.

“The court recognized that parents, not the government, should decide whether the juvenile should be released to a sponsor,” the agency said. “To comply with this order, ICE was required to check with each of the juveniles – and their parents – in custody … to make individual parole determinations with respect to those juveniles.”

In court papers filed May 15, the government noted more than 170 times that it had refused to release children currently in detention because the “parent does not wish to separate.” It labeled many children as flight risks without providing more specifics.

Gee wrote that she didn’t find that ICE officially sought to get those formal waivers, but that officers’ conversations with detained parents “caused confusion and unnecessary emotional upheaval and did not appear to serve the agency’s legitimate purpose of making continuous individualized inquiries regarding efforts to release minors.”

On Friday, Gee called on the government and advocates to devise a new process to determine whether families could be released.

Gee oversees a court settlement known as the Flores agreement, which controls how the U.S. is supposed to treat migrant children in its custody.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. government has imposed an effective ban on the entry of families and children seeking asylum. It has expelled hundreds of children within a few days of their crossing the border with Mexico instead of turning them over to government facilities designed to care for them, as normally required by federal law.

The agency says it releases most families from its detention centers within 20 days, the general limit under the Flores settlement for holding children in a secure facility.

But many families currently in custody have been detained for months, some since last year.

Advocates contend that ICE should release all families from detention especially as the coronavirus has spread rapidly through immigration detention, with more than 1,100 people contracting COVID-19 and a positive test rate of about 50%. At ICE’s largest family detention center in Dilley, Texas, the detainees include a child with epilepsy, a 1-year-old with breathing problems, and several children with heart murmurs, according to Shalyn Fluharty, director of the legal group Proyecto Dilley.

ICE says it has released hundreds of people deemed to have heightened exposure to the virus, though it has contested lawsuits across the country demanding the releases of others.

The Trump administration is also currently appealing Gee’s order last year stopping it from terminating the Flores agreement.

We would love to hear from you, have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email it to throughlovewelearn@gmail.com. 

Scroll to top