Back to school: the next phase

The return to school is looming for many and it’s time now to focus on the everyday logistics.

Books and stationary on a school desk


The summer holidays, for what they were, are coming to an end and parents’ minds are starting to focus on the return to school, with parents in Scotland and some others already having taken the first steps back.

Now is the time when you realise the entire school uniform doesn’t fit and that no-one has done any of the stuff they were supposed to do over the holidays [let alone the stuff they were supposed to have done before the holidays].

Months of lying in [although maybe not for parents of younger children] and turning day into night, particularly for teenagers, are going to make just getting up a huge feat – for children, and parents in many cases. The return to school is going to be a big shock to the system, as is the commute for those heading back to the office. Even working from home will be strange after months of not being able to focus for more than five to 10 minutes.

And that’s before the school run logistics. I’ve reserved the weekend for re-reading all the long notes sent by each of the three schools my kids go to at the end of the summer term. I skimmed them before and my mind went into contortions just trying to figure out how it would all work. One child has a time slot of 8.45-9am for a drive-through drop-off. Another has a time slot of around 8.30am and cannot be early or late in case of mixing of school bubbles. Another may have to hang around in an open space in order to get to school at the allotted time. Hopefully, the weather will be good.

Pick-ups are similarly challenging. There’s a drive-through pick-up at 3pm precisely. This is in a village with one road and farms all around. I hope the school has coordinated with the local farmers because if one tractor is on the road at school pick-up or drop-off time there could well be gridlock, throwing all other pick-ups into disarray. This is part of the penalty of living in the countryside, although not one we anticipated when we moved here, to be sure.

At least one of the side roads onto the village road has been regularly closed in past winters due to flooding caused by our climate change-impacted weather. If that happens this year, we may have to parachute the kids in. I have no idea how long drop-offs etc will take so I am moving all work-related calls to the late morning/middle of the day where possible. There is zero phone reception around the primary school.

An alternative is that one child goes occasionally [due to expense] on the bus, tube and train [a two-hour journey each way] with all the risks involved with public transport, which will see a significant rise in numbers in September. A large number of my daughter’s schoolmates travel by tube and train.

One step at a time

There’s a lot to think about. Clearly it is better for them to be at school than at home and for some parents it will be the difference between having a job and not having one. Nevertheless, I am sure I would be more anxious if I or anyone in my family were at higher risk of getting the virus and being really ill and I’m not at all convinced by the year group bubble idea, particularly for older children at large schools.

My children have, however, been through a hugely difficult time with multiple bereavements in the last months. They need more people to talk to about these or to talk to about other things, and they need help to catch up on missed work and to feel that they are not on their own. But in part due to what we have been through my anxiety levels are high and my tolerance of risk is low. I’m not entirely sure whether I am thinking straight about anything any more. Of course, all activities carry some degree of risk and we need to balance risks, but this particular situation we find ourselves in is, as they say, unprecedented and every parent faces different circumstances.

In any event, I don’t believe anyone thinks the road ahead will be easy. There will be a lot of disruption if anyone in schools shows symptoms and classes have to isolate. Parents too may have to isolate. One of my relatives is a caretaker and takes immuno-suppressant drugs. He will have to isolate any time anyone in the school has Covid symptoms eg a cough.

There is still a lot of uncertainty and things are changing day to day, witness, the u-turn on masks yesterday. There could be local lockdowns or a second wave of infections and it appears unclear what schools will do in such a scenario. What happens to mock exams if classes have to self isolate? In our house, we are facing A Levels, GCSEs and SATs [my son is insistent that he is not left out] over the next year and big decisions about the future for daughter two. Everything is uncertain, everywhere. We just need to edge forward one step at a time and see what each day holds.

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