Headteacher tells parents he’d rather children ‘retake a year than die’

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A headteacher has told parents that "social distancing" is not possible in primary schools in an honest and direct letter.

Howard Fisher said he was worried about children returning to schools and had seen nothing in the government advice that put his mind at ease.

In the letter he told parents he would rather children "repeat an academic year then go back too soon, and for parents not to lose a child."

The letter has been shared to the St George's Church of England Primary School in Sheerness' Facebook page, where it has received an outpouring of support, and thousands of shares – reports Kent Live.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the nation on Sunday that he expected early years, Reception and Year 1 children to return to school from June 1, proving the R – rate of infection – stays below one.

For the past week, it has been recorded as being between 0.5 and 0.9, so just under one, but the coronavirus death toll has continued to rise.

Mr Fisher told parents and guardians that in 15 years of leadership, he has learnt that being truthful and expecting the "worst case scenario" had served him well.

The letter, dated May 11, said: "We have no plans sent from the government before the announcement last night.

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"No doubt they will arrive this week suggesting social distancing, less pupils in school, splitting them up, staggered lunches and drop offs, etc.

"I can be truthful here and categorically tell you there is no such thing as social distancing in a school; it does not exist and would never exist.

"The reason childhood illnesses spread in a school is surprise, surprise, we are all in contact with each other.

"I can put two children in opposite classrooms and they will still get chicken pox because that’s how it is in a school.

"This virus we are lead to believe is a super spreader."

Since then, the government has published a report of how it sees schools functioning from June 1.

It cements Mr Fishers' predictions, and encourages staggered break times, drop offs and pick-ups, and reducing numbers in classrooms.

It also asks teachers to encourage regular 20 second handwashing, and for cleaning regimes to be ramped up.

Parents who choose not to send their child into school due to fears they will contract COVID-19 will not be fined, it has since emerged.

The letter continued: "Do I want the staff and the children back; of course.

"Are you at the end of your tether at home; of course you are.

"However I am not going to sit here and write to you to say we can achieve social distancing in a school.

"We can always make things safer, we could perhaps reduce slightly the risk, but as soon as you open the school as far as my many years can tell you, the risk will be there.

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"So that leaves us all in a quandary doesn’t it? How long can we go on like this for?

"Unfortunately I heard no answers last night, I heard no solutions.

"I heard that it is ok to put our youngest children back in a school and our oldest.

"I heard nothing that would put my mind at rest.

"There will be some of you that say, ‘let’s just get on with it,’ I respect that, but get on with what?

"There is not a reliable test, a vaccine, an idea about what to do next, there is just the possibility that things will be ok; that’s all we have at the moment and ‘ok’ is not good enough when it comes to the precious gift that is your child."

The government policy says it has chosen to proceed with this measure because the scientific evidence shows it is the right time.

Among the list of reasons, it says there is "high scientific confidence" that children of all ages have less symptoms than adults if they contract the virus.

It continues to say that there is a "moderately high scientific confidence" that younger children are less likely to become unwell if they do get infected.

The evidence also suggests that limiting the number of children going back and then gradually increasing this number reduces the rate of transmission.

But Mr Fisher said a "sensible and rational debate around better solutions" is missing.

He said: "Believe me, I would rather any child repeats a year than go back too soon and have to lose a child; why is this not in the national debate; because it will cost money!

"So parents, what can you do next? Well, all I can do is pass onto you information when we have it and you can make your own decision.

"Parent power is quite something when it is applied nationally; perhaps you too have some great ideas that can be brought before our politicians.

"I am only interested in my community and the families I serve and hope that you can reflect on my thoughts as the week unfolds."