Teachers’ union leader warns situation ‘untenable’ as health officials say track and trace system has been left too lateCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageParents are divided over the prospect of sending their children back to school, a new poll has revealed, as parent groups warned that mixed messages and poor communication had caused widespread anxiety about returning.With school leaders still grappling with the practicalities of reopening primary schools for some year groups in just a week’s time in England, an Opinium poll for the Observer found that 43 per cent of primary school parents and 54 per cent of secondary school parents feel anxious about the prospects of returning. Continue reading...
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Labour leader attacks ‘confusion and incompetence’ from governmentCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coveragePlans to...Labour leader attacks ‘confusion and incompetence’ from governmentCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coveragePlans to get all children back to school in early September are now at “serious risk” because of government incompetence and the chaos caused by the exams fiasco, the Labour leader Keir Starmer has warned.In one of his strongest interventions to date, which is bound to draw a furious response from Downing Street, Starmer told the Observer that two crucial weeks, which should have been spent preparing for schools to reopen, have been wasted dealing with a self-inflicted “mess” that has destroyed public confidence in government. Continue reading...
No-lockdown Sweden is compelling parents to send their children to school. Some fear their kids could ultimately be taken away if they refuse.
Sweden has kept schools open for children under 15, part of its policy of avoiding a...Sweden has kept schools open for children under 15, part of its policy of avoiding a widespread lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. Its policy is that students must physically attend school in almost all circumstances, including students with conditions that some evidence suggests may make them more at risk of catching COVID-19. Business Insider spoke to parents across Sweden who are disobeying the rules to keep their kids home. Many say local officials have threatened to involve social services if the parents do not relent and send their children to school. Some parents say their ultimate fear is having their children taken away. Swedish officials told Business Insider they would not usually resort to such an extreme measure, though did not deny that it is a possibility. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Sweden is compelling parents to keep sending their children to school — including students with conditions that some evidence suggests may make them more at risk of catching COVID-19 — as part of its policy to avoid a fullscale lockdown in response to the coronavirus. While school systems in other countries have ceased or greatly restricted in-person learning, Sweden says that anyone under 15 should keep going to school. There are almost no exceptions. Some parents have refused to comply, sparking a stand-off with state officials. They worry this could eventually end with their children being taken away — the ultimate reprisal from the government — though officials stress that this would only happen in extreme scenarios. Business Insider spoke to seven parents and teachers across Sweden, many of whom have decided to keep their children home despite instructions from the government to the contrary. For some, it is their children who they believe are at elevated risk for COVID-19, while others consider themselves vulnerable and fear their children could bring the disease home. In each case, Business Insider contacted officials responsible for the child's education, but none offered a response by the time of publication. Mikaela Rydberg and Eva Panarese are both mothers in Stockholm who are keeping their children home. Ryberg's son Isac, who is eight years old, has cerebral palsy and suffers badly from respiratory illnesses. Rydberg said he had been hospitalized before with colds and flu. However, her efforts to persuade his school that he should be kept home to shield from COVID-19 have not been successful. Swedish health officials do not consider children as a group to be at risk from the coronavirus — even children like Isac. As this is the official advice, doctors have declined to give Isac a medical exemption from school. Instead, Rydberg has kept him home since March against the school's instructions, which she said prompted local government officials to tell her that they may have to involve social services. The school did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment, while the local government, Upplands Väsby, said, "We follow the recommendations from our authorities and we do not give comments on individual cases." She said that because it is a question of her child's welfare, she is not worried about what could follow. "I am so certain myself that I am right, I am not worried about what they threaten me with," she said. "Unless you can 100% reassure me that he won't be really, really sick or worse by this virus, then I will not let him go to school." 'School is compulsory' Eva Panarese is a mother of two. She is keeping her son home to minimize exposure to her husband, who has recently suffered from pneumonia. Panarese said she reluctantly sent her daughter back to school because exam seasons is approaching and she felt there was no other option. Emails from the child's school reviewed by Business Insider insist that children come to school during the pandemic, citing government policy. One message, sent in April, said: "We need to emphasize again that school is compulsory." Panarese said her situation shows that it isn't possible to protect some members of a household if others are still obliged to go to school and risk infection. "I don't know who will be right or wrong but I don't want the risk," she said. "I don't want to be part of a grand experiment." The school did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment. No exceptions Sweden's Public Health Agency says there is "no scientific evidence" that closing schools would help mitigate the spread of the virus. The agency said doing so "would have a negative impact on society" by leaving essential workers struggling to find childcare. It said such a policy might put other groups of people — like grandparents — at increased risk if they care for children. Sweden has strong beliefs in the rights of the child, which includes the right to education, and typically does not allow that learning to take place outside of school. Only staff or children with symptoms should stay home, the Public Health Agency says. Sweden does not include children as an at-risk group, even children who have conditions that they acknowledge increase the vulnerability of adults, like diabetes, blood cancers, immunosuppressive conditions, or ongoing cancer treatments. Studies suggest children are generally less at-risk than other groups, but most countries have nonetheless closed schools, or radically changed the way they operate. New effects of the virus on children are also being discovered as the pandemic progresses. The government is continuing its usual policy, which says that when children are repeatedly absent, schools are supposed to investigate and, in some cases, report the situation to local authorities, which can involve social services. Fears over the coronavirus is not considered a valid reason for keeping children home. Afraid of losing their kids Ia Almström lives in Kungälv, around half an hour's drive from Sweden's second-largest city, Gothenburg. Authorities there have threatened to take her to court if her kids remain out of school. Almström has three children, whom she has kept home since April because she faces an increased risk from the virus because of her asthma. She received a letter from the local government on May 5, seen by Business Insider, which said that she could be referred to social services, where she could face a court order or a fine. The authority in question, Kungälvs Kommun, declined to comment on Almström's case. Almström said: "It is heartless how Sweden treats us. They do not take our fears seriously. We get no help, only threats." Almström said she and many parents "are afraid to lose our children or something." "That is what they do when they think that parents [cannot] take care of the children. Then they move the children away. So that's something we are afraid of." Last resort A spokeswoman for Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare said that taking a child away is the government's last resort. She said: "Normally, the social services will talk to the child, parents, and the school – trying to find out the underlying problem." "It is a big step to take a child away from the parents – not only school absence will normally be a reason to place a child in residential care or in foster home," she said, implying that other issues with how the children are being treated or raised would need to be found for the action to take place. However, escalation is not the only way out — some parents reach a compromise with their schools. Jennifer Luetz, who is originally from Germany, lives some 100 miles from Stockholm in the town of Norrköping. She said she contacted her children's school on March 12 to say they would be staying home, as she has a weakened immune system. She said the school was "understanding" and helped her children to work at home. The officials, she said, decided not to escalate her case as she what she described as a "valid reason" to keep her them at home. Other parents have struggled to reach similar agreements. And Luetz said she is still worried by Sweden's public health approach, and has faced social consequences for her decision. "My Swedish support network basically dried up overnight," she said. "My Swedish friends stopped talking to me." Teachers worry, too One teacher in Stockholm, who asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak, said that they agree with many of the parents keeping their children away. The teacher told Business Insider: "I do not believe that a good epidemiologist would make us send our children to school when many homes have at-risk people living in the same household." The teacher is originally from the US but has lived in Stockholm for six years, and said their spouse is in a risk group. The teacher said they worry for the health of older teachers and parents who are elderly or otherwise vulnerable. Andreia Rodrigues, a preschool teacher who also works in Stockholm, called the government's plan "unacceptable." She said it leaves parents having "to decide if they want to take on a fight with the school and then take the consequences." "Even if kids have parents who are confirmed to have COVID-19 at home, they are still allowed to be there," she said. "We cannot refuse taking kids, even if the parents come to us and admit 'I have COVID-19.'" 'We have been lucky not to be reported yet' Lisa Meyler, who lives in Stockholm, said she has been keeping her 11-year-old daughter home since March. Meyler has an autoimmune disease while her husband is asthmatic. "We refuse to knowingly put our daughter's health and life at risk," Meyler said, saying she will "not let her be a part of this herd immunity experiment." "We have been lucky not to be reported yet, but it has been made clear that it is not an option to let her stay home after the summer holidays." The school that her daughter attends did not respond to Business Insider's request to clarify its policy. She said having "children taken away is the ultimate fear" for parents.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How the Navy's largest hospital ship can help with the coronavirus
UK government set to reveals is plans isolate new arrivals for two weeks; independent Sage committee...UK government set to reveals is plans isolate new arrivals for two weeks; independent Sage committee warns against schools reopeningFull story: Priti Patel to outline quarantine rules for travellers to UKMore than 30,000 pubs and restaurants could stay shut after lockdownGlobal coronavirus updates - live Coronavirus latest: at a glanceSee all our coronavirus coverage 9.33am BST Transport for London (TfL) has announced it will begin reintroducing the requirement for passengers to pay for bus travel on Saturday.TfL is seeking independent advice from UCL Institute of Health Equity to make sure we better understand the impact of coronavirus on our bus workers and to ensure we are taking every possible measure to protect our heroic staff. As the son of a bus driver, this is deeply personal to me. I urge all Londoners to do their bit to keep our transport workers safe by only using public transport if you have no other alternative. It is crucial that the demand on services is as low as possible to enable social distancing for the safety of both staff and passengers. 9.03am BST A straw poll of Unison members working in schools in England found that the vast majority remain concerned over the safety of their workplaces opening to more pupils on 1 June.Unison said its members had been “shut out” of the debate over reopening, and that the government has not modelled the impact on support staff such as teaching assistants who tend to be older, and are more likely to come from black and minority ethnic communities or disadvantaged backgrounds.There’s little confidence in ministers’ plans, that’s clear to see. Staff, parents and schools aren’t ready to go back without reassurances that safety is the number one priority.Unions want to work with ministers to make schools as safe as possible, so that parents, their children and staff will want to return. But the rush to get some schools open to meet an arbitrary date isn’t at all helpful. Continue reading...