Some parents are choosing to take matters into their own hands and keep children off school despite British schools remaining open amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an announcement asking even those not showing symptoms to avoid social contact, ditch non-essential travel and work from home if they can.
But while people are being advised against all but essential social contact, British schools still remain open.
The decision has been met with confusion from some parents, with over 647K signing a petition urging the government to close the schools.
“We would like the government to at least consider closing schools/colleges down in the coming weeks or as soon as possible, in addition to taking necessary actions to prevent further spread,” the petition explains.
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It goes on to detail a “growing fear among parents and students that attend school.”
“In our view, the government and health officials around the world are more 'reactive' rather than 'proactive'.
“This will result in more spread as time is given for the virus to do so. We hope to come to an agreement as soon as possible in a timely manner.”
Other parents have taken to social media to explain why they’ve decided to make their own decision about keeping their children off school.
#Covid19Walkout— Julie Harrington #CapitalismKills #UTFC 🌹 (@celtjules66) March 16, 2020
I was worried about taking my daughter out of school as she’s been absent a fair amount with recurring tonsillitis.
School couldn’t have been nicer.
Explained I’m asthmatic on immunosuppressant medication.
If you’re in a similar position talk to the school ❤️❤️💚
kept all four of my kids if today, i have four kids in four schools, im not taking that risk. My kids lives aren't something to be played with— Tammy (@Tammyj1990) March 16, 2020
If Boris can't make a decent decision, then it will be made for him. Not sure I'll be waiting until the 20th - giving notice to school today that I will make the decision. It's about time the gov and schools were reminded that they educate, we parent #Covid19Walkout— Tracy B (@monkeymouth) March 16, 2020
This Tory government is making a huge mistake by not closing schools & colleges. Young people are currently spreading the #COVIDー19 infection every day & taking it home to their families. If the government won’t close the schools there should be a #Covid19Walkout #R4today— Dave Burns (@Dave_Burns_) March 16, 2020
And some students also seem to be taking matters into their own hands and claiming if the schools don’t shut they will walk out anyway, with many sharing their plans under #Covid19Walkout
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#Covid19Walkout— ✖️➖✖️ (@xmatboix) March 16, 2020
If you have schools/colleges don’t go in tomorrow morning. I’m personally not going.
Unfortunately when there’s bad decisions from the government, we the public need to take our safety into our own hands.
SCHOOLS ARE MASS GATHERINGS SCHOOLS ARE MASS GATHERINGS SCHOOLS ARE MASS GATHERINGS SCHOOLS ARE MASS GATHERINGS SCHOOLS ARE MASS GATHERINGS— mills (@cinnamillie_) March 16, 2020
SCHOOLS ARE MASS GATHERINGS SCHOOLS ARE MASS GATHERINGS SCHOOLS ARE MASS GATHERINGS #coronavirusuk #schoolclosure #Covid19Walkout
Students shouldn’t have to go to school, maybe in the 90’s it was a harder decision to shut down schools in the middle of a pandemic, but we have the INTERNET now. Online schooling is possible for these extenuating circumstances ffs!! #Covid19Walkout— i hate people who eat bats (@shadysthrone) March 16, 2020
As further representation of some parents anxiety about schools remaining open, Childcare networking site childcare.co.uk asked its 2m members whether the government should temporarily close all schools to cope with the outbreak and more than three quarters, 77%, said yes.
Since launching their poll Childcare.co.uk founder Richard Conway says they have had thousands of responses from our members regarding the closure of schools, with the majority of parents voting in favour of closing schools in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It has been a widely debated topic over the last month, but as it stands, parents across the country are still in a period of limbo,” he says.
“The government has yet to make a decision about the foreseeable future of UK schools, despite mounting pressure from the public.
“Several countries across Europe have closed schools in response to the outbreak, which has left many families wondering why the UK has not followed suit, especially considering the current restrictions around large gatherings.
“Many of our members have already made the decision to keep their children home from school for different reasons, from self-isolation to precautionary measures to the risk to family members with underlying health issues.
“Regardless of government advice, every parent's priority is the health and wellbeing of their children, but as our results show, the majority believe this means acting now - closing schools and keeping children safe at home.”
Commenting on the decision not to close schools at the moment Mr Johnson said yesterday: “We think at the moment on balance it’s much better if we can keep schools open for all sorts of reasons, but I appreciate this is something we need to keep under review.”
But in the mean time many parents are deciding whether to take the decision themselves to keep their children home.
Claire, 39 from Northern Ireland is considering keeping her children aged 16, 14 and nine off school after seeing how quickly cases of coronavirus have been escalating in other European countries.
“I am disabled and asthmatic so at high risk myself,” she explains. “Plus two of my children get coughs very easily and they do take a long time to clear up.”
Claire says she is feeling scared and worried not only for herself but other families.
“Watching how quickly people are getting ill then having to be ventilated is scary,” she says.
The mum-of-three says her children’s school has been very supportive, providing home learning packs for the kids to complete and she says she’s spent a fortune on Amazon in art, crafts and books, for her youngest.
“I am very worried about my youngest falling behind but work can be caught up with health is too important a thing to play with in my opinion,” she says.
In terms of whether her fellow parents are considering making the decision to withdraw children from school, Claire says there is a bit of a divide.
“My friends seem to be in a bit of a 50/50 mix between the ones who aren't worried and haven't really followed the virus like me and the other half who are really concerned.”
Bernadette Chapman, 45, Founder of Bernadette Chapman Consultancy, from Essex has already made the decision to keep her children aged 17,15 and 10 home from school.
“My middle two children developed a cough over the weekend and that combined with my youngest having a low immune system (she's been hospitalised for pneumonia before) resulted in me deciding to keep them home,” she tells Yahoo UK.
Not only was she worried about her children infecting others, but Bernadette also had concerns about her youngest picking up the virus.
Like many parents, Bernadette believes that the latest government advice is somewhat contradictory.
“We know children work closely with each other and play tactfully resulting in close proximity,” she says. “Which is the opposite to the government advice of work from home, avoid social gathering, don't go to pubs. Theatres etc.”
Bernadette says she was initially worried about her children being marked absent and being isolated from friends, particularly if we go into lock down.
“In a way I wanted them at school so they could have that social time before isolation began.”
The call from many parents to close schools comes after it was revealed that in the UK, more than 44,000 people have been tested, with 1,551 coming back positive and 55 deaths.
Advice released by Public Health England (PHE) earlier this week states: “PHE will rarely advise a school to close, but this may be necessary if there are so many staff being isolated that the school has operational issues.
“Your local authority will support you to make this assessment.
“PHE will work with the headteacher, principal or management team, and the Local Authority Public Health team, to advise on the management of children, pupils, students or staff.”
They also told teachers that any child with coronavirus symptoms should be self-isolated and then sent home.
Meanwhile, nearly 100 universities have shut down face to face teaching and are moving their courses online amid the growing crisis.
Among them was Newcastle University, which said it would send students home until September and carry out teaching online instead.