Why can’t our schools be Covid-safe for everyone?

Kim and her husband have an 11-year-old adopted daughter with complex learning difficulties. Kim got Covid-19 in the first wave and has been living with Long Covid for 18 months. The family has had to adapt from having an energetic mum to one who struggles to do the simplest tasks. Kim’s husband now works at home to support her through her relapses.

Why did you decide to remote-school?

We took my daughter out of school at the start of the pandemic. Back then, everyone thought children were immune to Covid. So, our main concern was my health. I didn’t really recover from Covid, and my blood didn’t show any antibodies. So, my GP advised me to really try to avoid catching it again. At about the same time, we started to learn more about the effects Covid had on children, especially those with neurodiversity.

I managed to remote-school my daughter for a year, and she was doing very well. But I was struggling with the routine because of my health. We sent her back when the community cases were low in Term 5/6 of 2021. She was really delighted to go back. 

How did your school respond?

The school was very supportive of our decision to remote school. We received tasks every day, which we sent it back for daily feedback and advice. It was much more exciting when the school started doing zoom calls during school closures.

What positives have come out of the situation?

When my daughter started remote schooling at age 10, she could hardly read, write, or add numbers. By the end of the year at home, she was reading very well, writing much better and confident with addition, subtraction and starting her one and two-times tables.

During the lockdown, my daughter went through a Sensory Assessment. This is when we found out the nature of her various disabilities. It seemed the home learning environment suited her learning better because it is free from distractions, and we could move at her pace. 

As an adopted child, she also suffers from attachment difficulties. So the time spent at home with us was therapeutic for her. She is much more confident in herself, our relationships are much closer, and she no longer has uncontrollable meltdowns.

What is your outlook going forward?

Unfortunately, my Long Covid is somewhat worse. My Long Covid consultant has warned me that my vaccine immunity is waning, and getting Covid again would worsen my condition. Although I’d rather have my daughter at home, I wouldn’t be able to manage her learning with my health the way it is at the moment. 

My daughter has gone back to school for the new year as my husband feels cases are relatively low where we are. But it’s Delta, and I’m extremely worried now that the school has nothing in place to stop Covid transmission. 

In a recent school meeting, where we explained my health concerns. We were told flippantly with a laugh, “We just have to get used to having Covid going around.” The school also refused our offer of a HEPA filter. And they won’t consider bringing back mitigations to stop transmission because “they can’t go beyond government guidelines.”

Cases will show signs of exploding soon, and it will be dangerous for anyone who is CV/CEV. So, we will have no choice but to take my daughter out again, deregister if necessary, and just finding a way between us to homeschool. I just hope none of us become very unwell in that time.

What is your daughter’s perspective?

“I would like to do mummy’s school again because at school-school I don’t understand and they go too fast. I don’t want to get the virus, and sometimes they don’t open the windows. But I like to be at school with my friends.”

What message that would you like to send to our leaders?

I’d like to remind them what Dr. Michael Ryan of the WHO said about the UK’s current strategy: 

“The logic of ‘more people being infected is better’… has proven its moral emptiness and its epidemiological stupidity previously.”

What TOP three things would you like the government to do?

• Invest in internationally-recognised Covid mitigation in schools

• Suppress the virus in our communities

• Make every public space in our country safe and accessible for everyone.

How do you feel about the situation?

I feel outraged that we live in a country where safe education is exclusive! It’s not for children, staff, and family members who can’t be vaccinated, have underlying conditions, cancer or other disabilities. I find it really ironic in our case since my daughter goes to a Special School that used to pride itself on being inclusive.

To find out more or get support on these issues, follow @SafeEdForAll_UK on Twitter.

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