‘I can’t send my children to school ... They’re victims of my disease’

Mother says children cannot attend school due to her medical condition, but are not entitled to remote tuition

Jan Rynne with her husband Michael, son Daniel (12) and daughter Emily (15).   Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Jan Rynne with her husband Michael, son Daniel (12) and daughter Emily (15). Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

Jan Rynne would love to be able send her two children back to school next week, but she says she cannot risk it.

A decade ago, she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

For three years she felt life drain away from her as she became overwhelmed with fatigue and infections. Then, an opportunity to take part in a trial in Leeds in England on a new targeted therapy gave her a second chance.

She has made huge strides since – but the disease hasn’t gone away. She remains at a very high risk of dying if she contracts coronavirus.

With schools reopening, Ms Rynne says her family feel they have been left in limbo.

Official rules state that only children with medical conditions are entitled to take part in remote learning with all others expected to attend school.

However, Ms Rynne says her medical advice is that it is too risky to send her children back to school.

Cocoon

“My children are the victims of my disease, and they are forced to cocoon with me,” she says.

“I’m heartbroken that they can’t go to school. The school uniform has been bought in the hope that we could work out something like going into school in small groups for practical subjects, masked up, and doing other subjects remotely.”

Ms Rynne says she has not been able to get a definitive answer from the Department of Education about her situation. The department said it was a matter for individual schools.

Her children’s two schools have also been unable to say if remote teaching will be possible or permitted under existing rules. If a compromise cannot be worked out, Ms Rynne is worried that she could end up being referred to social services over her children not being in school. Official rules remain that schools must notify Tusla of any child who misses 20 days or more of classes.

Last option

“I don’t want them breathing down my neck . . . I just want my children to have an education and connect with their friends as much as is possible,” she says.

The last option, she says, is to withdraw her children and homeschool them.

“It’s not something I want to do. I know nothing about the curriculum. My husband isn’t academic. We’ve no experience of this,” she says.

Ms Rynne says she is aware she is not alone and that there are hundreds of parents in similar situations waiting for answers.

“We need answers and we need support, but we can’t get any.”