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26 May 2020updated 27 May 2020 5:28pm

“I want to see my friends, but I’m scared“: How do children feel about going back to school?

The New Statesman asks pupils what their views are on returning. 

By Eleanor Peake

Most children dream of school being cancelled. But for the past three months, the reality across the country has been far from the fantasies. Pupils have dealt with reduced human contact, exam cancellations and limited access to the free school meals that are vital to some.

For now, government guidelines say the youngest that will go back first. Primary school children in reception classes, Year 1 and Year 6 will return to their teachers on 1 June. On 15 June, Year 10 and Year 12 students will go next. Other students are expected to remain at home for the summer, while some schools question whether they will reopen at all in the coming months. 

How do school students feel about this continued uncertainty? The New Statesman asks children and teenagers across the country. 

Christina, 16, London

“It’s important for some children to get back to school. The government has randomly decided to take away free school meal provisions during half term and so they have left millions of families stranded in the most desperate times. People are going to be really desperate, and they need that meal support right now. Even when it was school time, for kids like myself who have free school meals, it was often their one hot meal a day. So now that they’re at home, they don’t have that provision. 

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I also don’t think working from home is possible for everyone. Kids that have free school meals, they might not have great internet connection or just the ability to access good devices and courses online. So I think that it’s unfair to say older years should just work at home. But then at the same time, of course, going back to school is a risk and I don’t think we should rush to get kids back.”

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Christina in Year 11, started a petition, asking the government to support families during the school holidays. 

George, 11, Huddersfield

“I’m in Year 6. I am excited to see my friends again but I think everyone going back to school is a bad idea. It will be dangerous because the virus is still going around and not everyone is cured.
I feel OK about the fact I am not going back until September. My council is refusing to open the schools. I miss my friends but I would rather be safe and see them later. I can see my friends online and play Xbox. I have seen a few from two metres away too because they live in the village and I have seen them when on a walk.

I am not personally worried about coronavirus but I am worried for other people and my relatives like Nana and Grandad. I am not worried about my schoolwork either because I am doing all my work at home that is set by my teacher, Mrs W.”

April, 8, London 

“I feel happy about not going back until September but a bit annoyed because I can’t see my teacher explaining things to me properly. School will look different and people will be coming in and out of school because of coronavirus. Children will be getting annoyed that they won’t be able to play as much as they want to do and they can’t talk to partners properly when they are stuck.

I am worried about my education because we don’t get as much in our brains. If I didn’t get something and I just guessed it then I haven’t really learnt it very well. I need my teacher to help me.

I miss some of my clubs like judo. At school they give you a choice of hobbies and technically you get better and better at it. You might become a world champion at that thing. I have also missed my friends a lot because I miss playing with them and being silly in class.

Eve, 16, Kent 

I’m set to go back in June because I’m in Year 12, but I work at a supermarket part time so I’m already exposed to so many people. It doesn’t feel that safe. My dream would be to go back in September. Any later than that and my exams would really suffer next year. 

It sounds quite selfish but my year group’s main concern is: how are we going to get into a university when we haven’t done exams to get predicted grades? I’m stressed about how they are going to calculate my grades because I have teachers that really don’t like me. They don’t have very high expectations of me. I have teachers that think I’m dumb but I’m really not, I’m just not very confident.

If we go back now, it wouldn’t improve my education because I’m working fine at home, and I don’t think it would improve the crisis. I think it would make that worse.”

Casper, 6, London

“School will be weird. You might think you can go near your friends because you are at school but you still have to stay two meters and bring your own stuff in. Also we were told the water fountain will be closed. People can’t whack you in the playground so that’s good.

I am a bit happy about not going back to school in June because I like playing outside at home and playing with my sister and all my toys. At school I am not allowed to play with my Lego because I am not allowed to bring it into school.

I think I have learnt more at home because I have more concentration because in my class everybody is loud and at my house, only my sister is loud.”

Joe, 10, London 

“I would like to go back to school in one case as I miss my friends but I mostly don’t want to go back because there’s not enough space in the school to stay two metres apart and the teacher has to touch our books to mark them. I feel that the government is making a wrong decision sending Year 6 back to school because all they do is their SATS and then they just recap everything they’ve done in previous years.

Really, I think that no one should go back to school at the moment because it will disrupt online learning for the years that don’t go back. Because this year has been cut off, it would be nice if the teachers could carry on with this year next year.”

Thomas, 11, Bradford

“I’m in Year 6. I’m not sure if I want to go back to school, my mum said I could do whatever I decided. I want to go see my friends, but I’m just scared about getting coronavirus obviously. I’d like to do a bit of both so I can see my friends but not get ill.

I’m not really worried about missing out on learning. I’m doing lots of work at home. They gave us our SATs papers before we all went off so we could do that. I’ve also been on my computer doing times table games and reading games and stuff like that. We have done some Zoom calls with our teachers, but I don’t really do them because I’m not a fan of them. I just feel nervous when I’m on them, feel like everyone is watching me. Going back in June isn’t stressing me out, it’s stressing my mum out though.”

Baxter, 5, London

“I feel excited. I miss my friends and my teacher. In lockdown I feel lonly.”