Fresh uniform every day? Some schools do solo runs
Two weeks before schools reopen, parents are confused and seek direction and clarity
Back to school: Rumours are rife about school uniforms, taking books home and bringing in lunch boxes. Photograph: Jens Buettner
With just two weeks to go until the school gates finally reopen, many parents are confused and frustrated over exactly what rules will apply.
Rumours swirl around whether school uniform rules will change, whether children can bring their books home, and if children will be allowed to bring in lunch boxes.
None of this should come as too much of a surprise.
Schools only received detailed guidance around reopening just over a fortnight ago, even though the education system has been shut since March 12th.
Many are now scrambling to put in place detailed reopening plans around staggered opening times, how pods will work in practice and how physical distancing will operate in the yard.
While some have been quick to issue detailed advice to parents, many are only now getting around to consulting staff and getting plans signed-off by boards of management made up of volunteers.
The detailed guidance given to schools also contains some holes and unanswered questions.
Public health guidelines
The issue of whether school uniforms will need to change, for example, is not outlined in public health guidelines for reopening schools.
At a briefing earlier this week, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said no such advice has been issued by health authorities.
A spokesman for the Department of Education also said it had not issued any such guidance and school uniform policies were matters for individual schools and their boards of management.
In the absence of any official direction, some schools have done solo runs and advised parents to ensure they supply a clean set of uniforms or crested tracksuits each day.
This advice, clearly, would place a major imposition of parents who face having to buy additional sets of clothing.
The only reference to clothing in public health guidance relates to creches or childcare facilities, and this only applies in cases where a child has been diagnosed with Covid-19.
In this case, it says clothes should be washed at the highest temperature the material can stand.
However, a number of schools have taken matters into their own hands and are issuing their own advice.
Similarly, many schools are giving contrasting advice to students on whether lunch boxes will be permitted and whether schools books may be brought home by children or will have to remain in school.
There are also concerns around rules which will make face masks mandatory at second level. Many children with sensory difficulties find it difficult or even impossible to wear them for an extended period. Will rules be relaxed for them?
And guidelines over class bubbles and pods are a source of concern and confusion with some wondering if children with additional needs will be permitted to move between special and mainstream classes.
Clear communication will be crucial for parents and schoolchildren over the coming days.
Many are anxious enough about returning – greater clarity would be welcomed by all.