This morning is a strange morning for anyone who works in childcare. On Wednesday a lot of us found out that from Friday we would be closing our doors. But not really closing our doors. While the world shouts "the schools are closed" what is really happening is something quite different.
Thursday was spent with settings trying to figure out which of their hundreds of children they should, and could, offer a place to based on a strict but simultaneously vague list provided by the government. Hours of work went into it. Then at midnight the list was extended meaning that the work had to be done all over again.
Meanwhile rotas were made, online learning set up, parents and children reassured, work was pulled together for hundreds of children who might not be in from Monday. There were tears as we thought of everything we and the children would now miss - Easter celebrations, planting and growing, playing in the sun together, end of year celebrations. Equal were the tears as we realised we might not see some children again (those transitioning to other schools in September) and worries about the children we know don't always get fed or who parents struggle to cope with. Also tears for those parents who may now going into isolation with children with ADHD, Autism or a plethora of other things which will mean being stuck inside is tough. Really tough.
Nursery and school staff panicked about their personal situations too. Would they have a place allocated for their own child? Should they take it or did they have another option? They have asthma or have just found out they are pregnant - should they self isolate or stay to support colleagues during a tough time? Is it more important to come in and work and put their own child into school so put them both at risk or self isolate but then not help out looking after other people's children? Private nurseries and childminders had their own decisions to make too. Should they open or not? How many staff could they afford to keep on? Could they even afford to close? So many choices.
At home time on Friday everyone was uncomfortable and did not know what to say. "Goodbye?" "See you soon?" "See you never?" Not knowing when schools would open again no one knew.
Yes last week was a tough one. But that isn't the point of this post. Today I want to answer the question that many people are struggling with today... "SHOULD I SEND MY CHILD TO SCHOOL?"
Let me start by saying that if you are even asking yourself that question then you have other options so the answer is "No! Not a bloody chance! For the love of God don't do it!"
If you are need that care then you KNOW you need it. Is your job and that of your partner essential to the running of the country at it's most basic level? I mean really, really essential? It is time to be realistic and critical. It is time to step up as a responsible citizen of the world and make a tough decision. If the answer is no then DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILD TO SCHOOL OR NURSERY. I am adding childminders to that list too.
Next week childminders, school staff and nursery staff will be putting their health and that of their whole family at risk to offer essential childcare to the people who need it most but let's get one thing clear in your minds. These are the children of key workers for our country and the reality is that key workers, and their families, are the ones who will be most at risk of contracting COVID-19. Schools, childminders and nurseries are taking every possible precaution to keep everyone germ free but make no mistake, your child will not be as safe in one of these settings as they would be in your own home being only in contact with their immediate family.
Maintaining normality or practicing social skills is NOT a reason to send your child to school (when I say school assume I mean nursery or childminder too). Needing them out from under your feet is NOT a reason to send them to school. "I was offered a place" is not a good reason. "They will miss out on their education and I won't be able to get them to do any school work at home" is NOT a good reason. Really... who gives a toss?! Every child in the country is in the same position. The children who are in school will not be roaring ahead in their education, happily gaining diplomas and degrees by the age of 7 because they were in school and not at home. Everyone's education will be fine when this is all over. We are all in the same boat. Money is NOT a reason to send them to school. I am not sitting in my ivory tower ignoring that not working would cause you financial collapse here by the way. I know for some people there will be no other option but please, please explore every other option before this one.
School staff, nursery staff, their cleaners, cooks, office staff, childminders and delivery people are all putting their own health and the health of their country on the line to look after the children of the most essential workers to keep us all fed, safe and healthy. Do not take advantage of this. By sending your child to school unnecessarily you are exposing all of the staff, all of the children and all of their families to an unnecessary extra possible source of the virus and exposing your own child and family too. This is not the time to take advantage of the system and any loopholes for selfish reasons.
So if you are still wondering if you should send your child to school on Monday then here is my advice...
If you have any, ANY, ANY, ANY, other option available to you then it is a big fat NO! Stay home and stay safe. You are saving countless lives by doing so.
If you and your partner are truly 'key workers' - those who without which people would not be getting food or care then YES. Send your child to their setting and do it guilt free an with my personal thanks for everything you are doing, putting yourself and your family at risk every day to keep us all safe, fed and well and be there for us when we need you.
This is a war people! Whether you keep you and yours locked indoors or go out to provide essential services you are doing your part to keep everyone in our country safe. Well done you xxx