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74% of parents want choice on sending children to school in September – poll

The questionnaire was commissioned by charity Parentkind, which is calling on the Government to remove the threat of fines for parents.

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Children in England are due to return to school in September (Danny Lawson/PA)

Children in England are due to return to school in September (Danny Lawson/PA)

Children in England are due to return to school in September (Danny Lawson/PA)

Almost three quarters of parents want to be able to choose whether to send their children back to school in September, new data suggests.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has previously warned that every child in England will be expected to attend school in the autumn unless there is a “proper medical reason” for their absence, and parents could be fined.

A poll of 4,800 parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland found that 74% would like the right to decide whether to send their child to school between now and Christmas.

More than one in three English parents polled (44%) say they would not be happy for their children to return to the classroom if there are no social distancing measures in place.

It’s clear from our results that more work needs to be done by government and schools to reassure parents and carers that it is safe for children to return to school.John Jolly

A further 24% are not sure on this issue.

In addition, more than a quarter of English parents (26%) say they do not yet know whether they are planning on sending their children back at the start of the new academic year.

The questionnaire was commissioned by charity Parentkind, which is now calling on the Government to remove the threat of fines for parents who choose not to send their children back to school until at least December this year.

CEO John Jolly said: “It’s clear from our results that more work needs to be done by government and schools to reassure parents and carers that it is safe for children to return to school.

“A significant number remain undecided about returning their children to school next term, and the majority of parents and carers are wanting the right to make the decision themselves.

“The Government needs to be understanding of parents’ legitimate concerns and talking about fining them is not helpful.”

A union agrees with their request and says the data shows “parents are placing far greater trust in school leaders than Government”.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Instead of threatening parents with fines, Boris Johnson should be doing a great deal more to prove that his strategy is right.

“Schools are doing their best to make good on existing guidance and create safe school environments, but the lack of a plan B from Whitehall is far from reassuring.”

Schools in England will reopen fully in September and attendance will be mandatory.

Mr Williamson told the House of Commons earlier this month: “It is critical to ensure that no child loses more time in education and that from September all children who can be at school, are at school.”

In Wales, there are no plans for fines initially when the new school year starts in September.

Pupils in Wales returned for a three to four-week term at reduced capacity on June 29 with staggered starts, lessons, and breaks for pupils.

Northern Ireland schools plan to reopen in August.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Regular and full time school attendance from September will be essential to help pupils catch up on time out of the classroom, as well as being important for their wellbeing and wider development.

“Schools should work with families to ensure children are attending full time. As usual, fines will sit alongside this, but only as a last resort and where there is no valid reason for absence.”

PA