Back to school – Dr David Crichton

September signals the start of autumn and a new academic year for many. This year is no exception, although things will undoubtedly be a little different.

As a father of a child in education, I can understand there may be mixed feelings about going back to school, perhaps more than ever before. Some children may feel excitement about seeing friends and teachers, whilst other children – and parents – may be apprehensive about the return to a school setting, wondering if it is safe to do so with coronavirus. It is completely natural to feel like this, particularly following the last few months when schools have been closed for the majority and we have been staying at home to help reduce the spread of the virus.

It is so important for the health and wellbeing of our children that they return to school so they can continue their education, interact with their friends and get back into a routine. As Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

Of course there are no completely risk-free options to a return to school but staff have been working incredibly hard over the summer to make classrooms ‘covid-secure’ and as safe as possible.

Studies show that children of all ages are at extremely low risk of becoming ill from coronavirus. In a study of over 55,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals, less than 1% was under the age of 19. And a further review of global studies found that children were approximately half as likely to catch coronavirus as adults, meaning that they would be less likely to pass it on. The Chief Medical Officer himself, Prof Chris Whitty, has also stated that “there is much less transmission from children to adults than adults to adults”.

For those small number of children who fall into a shielded group, discussions are recommended with their hospital specialist, GP and school about how best to support them.

All Doncaster schools have submitted a risk assessment to Doncaster Council to ensure they meet the health and safety needs and expected requirements from a Public Health perspective. Each school will have appropriate personal protective equipment and will practice social and physical distancing measures. There’s plenty of useful advice and information about what to expect when schools reopen and about travel to school on Doncaster Council’s website and social media pages.

Other measures schools are putting in place include staggered start/finish times and minimising the number of contacts each pupil has during the day by putting classes or whole year groups into “protective bubbles”. It’s best to check with your child’s school what the arrangements will be so you and your child/children know what to expect and can be prepared.

All these safety measures have the health and wellbeing of children at heart and if an outbreak does occur in a school, plans will be in place to work with the Council’s Public Health team to manage the situation.

Dedicated school transport services have also been asked to move children in “bubbles”, provide hand sanitiser, apply social distancing where possible and ask children over 11 years to wear face coverings. You could consider walking or cycling to school which is good for health and the environment!

In preparation for school, it would be worth talking to your child/children prior to starting back at school and going through what school might be like. It’s also good to re-emphasise the importance of regular handwashing, sanitising and social distancing.

For older students who have received their GCSE and A-level results, there may be worries about the impact the pandemic has had on your education and results. Please don’t worry, help and support is available to you. Check out Start in Doncaster where there is a range of services to help you in your decision-making on your next steps. There’s also a website dedicated to Health Careers for those considering a career in health.

Information and Resources:

How will school be different for my child?

What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Going back to school

Health Careers

Start in Doncaster

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