Testimonies from parents. 5. Mother from North of England

I am a parent to 2 young women aged 13 and 17. I am from the North of England and BAME heritage. For many years I have lived with chronic lung condition and other issues that render me clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) to the virus. Qualified and experienced as a social worker since 1997, I have also have professional experience of safeguarding in a regulatory context. 

I have always worked but since March 11th  2020 I have not been able to work as I work with care homes. My daughters withdrew from school from this date, before the official lockdown. 

Summer passed by with us cocooned behind closed doors, we baked, we gardened, no visitors except online deliveries. In September, the school insisted my daughters returned. My eldest wrote a lengthy email to the headteacher asking of she and others would be able to wear masks in class.  The youngest had social contact hesitancy and was refused a change of seat to where she felt safer.  Both returned, fearful and with no measures or support in place.  

Dodgy lungs meant for me no ability to use sprays or adapt excessive cleaning regimes, so shared use of the household facilities was quickly ruled out. So instead I was confined to my room 4x4m for 23 hours a day. 

Within a week, my 17yo was sent home with a positive contact letter. Ten days later 13 yo had the same letter. Both girls now at home, I raised my concerns with school.  The school would not offer remote learning unless “self-isolating” and home-education of A level sciences was out of my gift and energy levels. “Off-rolling” would mean lost school places and lost friends. 

The school mentioned safeguarding if I failed to send them back. The school said I needed medical evidence, even though they knew about hospital admissions last year and breathing issues self-evident. GP sad they had been told not to write. My respiratory consultant wrote on 9th October saying I was at extremely high risk from daughters’ school attendance and requested remote learning. Pastoral head said sacrifices were needed, I had lived my life and time for my girls to live theirs, what about their future, their mental health.  Upset, I managed to say, my death would also have an effect on their future, their mental health. 

I called the LA and they said schools should work in partnership to avoid fines and safeguarding. Concerned about the latter having particular consequences on my social work registration, I sent them back to school.  To limit risks, the girls made the 18 mile journey by car with a screen fitted in between them and the driver. Every day, the girls were at school our family felt like a bullet was being dodged. My girls were frightened, but I didn’t see them or hug them.  I asked for school to refer both girls to school counsellors. I stayed in my room 23 hours a day, only emerging for essentials. 

Early November my 17yo rang me, sobbing down the phone, “My best friend has it. Mum what if I have it and what if I have passed it to you. I don’t want you to die.”  We drove in a screened car 1 hr to a test centre to allay her concerns. Her anxiety worsened and she had several virtual GP appts.  Mental health of all in tatters.

I withdrew them from school. The 3 week old un-responded consultant letter resent (again and again). I wrote to my MP, spoke to councillors each time having to recount my stressful journey, each time having the government guidance quoted – children of CEV parents must attend school.

With schools closed again, we felt safe, the girls no longer felt different. Remote learning quality improved as teachers remembered they were there.  All they want is for school to be safe but want to keep their mum for a bit longer too. 

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