Persistence pays off, it really does.
When the School app pinged on the Eve of the October half term, I knew what was coming.
Nestled neatly into the brightly coloured monthly newsletter, sitting amongst the student achievements and success stories of the previous 6 weeks, was the request that parents, where possible, should wear face coverings at the start and end of the school day after half term.
My heart sank.
After the turmoil and upset of the past 7 months, getting the children back to school and into a routine again felt like a massive win. It is the only part of our life right now that feels remotely normal and settled. Pre- Covid I used to dread the school run and the inevitable chaos that ensues when you are trying to get two children out of the door, on time, with all that they need for the day ahead. But like with many things I used to take for granted, I found myself longing for that normality and chaos many times during the first lockdown and have been grateful for it ever since.
My favourite part of the day is seeing my children’s faces as they come out of school. My Son who has just started in Reception, is beaming as soon as he spots us in the line. My eldest, who is in Year 4, and gradually approaching that age where it isn’t cool when Mum and Dad publicly acknowledge you in front of your friends, smiles and waves begrudgingly. I love it.
As a parent, seeing their faces at the end of the day and them being able to see mine is vitally important and is often the best indicator of what kind of day they have had and how the evening might pan out. We need to preserve that at all costs.
I was aware that this was primarily a Council led initiative having seen various posts about the School Gates Campaign on social media from our local authority. It was clear that many other local schools in the area had already implemented the scheme with many parents opting to wear face masks at drop off and collection. I was determined not to be one of them.
Bolstered by the resources and support from UsForThem and in a coordinated approach with two other parents from schools that sit within our academy, I contacted the Head of Education at the Council and the CEO of our school trust and asked for clarification around the origins of the request. Was it only at the school gate? Why was the request in contravention of the DofE guidance? What scientific basis were they making this decision on? Had a risk assessment been completed to document the risks associated with parents wearing a mask? They were all very much unknowns.
My main concerns however were around the safeguarding implications. How would the school now know who was entering the premises and how would they ensure that the children were collected by the correct person at pick up?
I was pleasantly surprised to receive a very balanced and positive response from our CEO. She advised that there had been parents who were in support of the initiative and others who were very much against it. There was also an acknowledgment that the initiative could not be policed.
The response from the Council was as expected. After a week of email correspondence back and forth they have failed to fully answer my scientific based questions or produce a risk assessment for their Borough wide initiative. They did however confirm that this was only intended to be advice for outside the school gates, predictably putting the onus back onto the school.
Late yesterday afternoon, the school app pinged yet another notification through to my phone.
We Wish to allay any parents’ concerns and would like all stakeholders to be aware;
-Masks are not compulsory, it is a personal choice that should be respected.
-No one will be refused entry to the site if they are not wearing a face covering…….
Job done. For now.
Never think for a moment that you are powerless in all of this or that your voice doesn’t make a difference.
Push back, challenge, send the letter, make the phone call, speak to your friends and do not settle for anything less for your children and their future.
Persistence pays off, it really does.
I can’t wait to see their happy faces at pick up tonight.