BACK TO SCHOOL IN SCOTLAND
This month (August 2020), we spoke to several families in Scotland affected by PCD to get their view on returning to school. There was variation in approach. Everyone, however, said that they had talked through the issue with respiratory specialists including PCD nurses and physiotherapists.
One family decided not to send their children back to school as they still do not feel there is sufficient data on Covid-19 and paediatric respiratory patients:
“Whilst it is helpful to know that children with PCD are at no greater risk of contracting Covid-19, than children without, the risk of potential damaging symptoms, we feel is too great. We have a very supportive school, who are happy for us to continue teaching from home – I am a trained Primary teacher and as a result, my children do not have lack of educational opportunity, which is one of the main reasons for the schools to return full time in Scotland. We plan for the kids to return to school when there is sufficient data/successful treatment/a vaccine.”
For another parent, it was the fact that her child was starting secondary school that was the tipping point in the decision to send her child back to school. For other families, it came down to weighing up the pros and cons on the basis that the family member with PCD wasn’t always the child – often of course it is the adult with PCD who must consider whether it’s right for them that they send their child back to school:
“We have been very anxious about as although I’m the parent with PCD, my daughter has been shielding with me all during lockdown. However, having spoken to my respiratory consultant and a Cilia scientist I’m more comfortable that the risk is currently very low.”
Those who had sent children back to school reported a variety of adaptations on the part of school to adapt to the current situation to protect the health of both children and teachers. New measures in schools range from temperature taking (some even in tents through which the children must pass each morning before they can enter the school building) to a staggered beginning for the school year, with children from different year groups starting on different days. Other safety measures include one-way systems, de-cluttered classrooms, deep-cleaning, and a prevalence of hand sanitisers. Some schools even offered outdoor spaces dedicated to pupil support. They report that desks are spaced out and that enhanced and regular cleaning procedures have been put in place. Children themselves are also being empowered to take responsibility for their own health – whether that be in carrying their own pack including mask and gel. Since Monday, 31st August, all pupils at secondary schools in Scotland have to wear face coverings when moving between classrooms. As one parents, noted this is good news for her daughter who had been wearing a FFP3 mask in school – not comfortable and hot – strange to be ‘the odd one out’.
For most, it had been critical to reassure their children about the return to school by visiting in advance of the first day back to see for themselves the practical changes being made. This was a vital step in helping children to feel more positive about their return. They were also welcoming of the way that school staff were open to their suggestions.
In general, parents are still feeling slightly anxious about the new term – particularly with new cases being reported in Scottish primary and secondary schools. They talked about the need to monitor things, to remain alert to any changes and be prepared to adjust their approach to school accordingly. A good leveller for some was the reminder that new cases being reported are as expected, especially with testing becoming more mainstream: “It will be interesting to see how they manage kids/teachers that have the normal flu/cold symptoms that are common every year.”
As far as advising other parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland around the return to school is concerned, they encouraged parents to meet with the school directly and to keep up that close contact, whilst balancing off the risks and benefits. They underlined the importance of seeking personal solutions that work for the individual child or family whilst at the same time consulting with your medical specialist.
“I think everyone has to make a decision based on what’s right for them and their family. For me I think the current risk of me getting it from my daughter is way lower than the risk impact to her emotional wellbeing of not returning to school. This may change at some point and I may have to reconsider, but for now I’m happy that there is greater awareness and opportunity to take action early and people are more rigorous with hand and respiratory hygiene compared to back in March when we had all being going about as normal for months with no precautions while the virus was prevalent.”
Based on the views of a range of families affected by PCD in Scotland, August 2020.