PRIOR to Boris Johnson announcing schools would be closing in March, many parents in St Helens had already began to keep their children home.

Parents were concerned about the rapidly spreading coronavirus and felt that if the government were not going to act, they would.

Of course, schools did not close for everyone, remaining open throughout the pandemic for small numbers of children.

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In May, the Prime Minister announced plans to welcome back more children in key transition years – nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6, from June 1.

This has presented parents with a difficult choice – send your children back out into the world or keep them at arm’s length.

Following the PM’s announcement last month, schools have been speaking to parents to gauge potential take-up and collate views over the wider reopening.

But only 12 of the borough’s primary schools had indicated to parents that they would be welcoming back more children in key transition years.

More schools are expected to open more widely in the coming weeks.

St Helens Star: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced schools would be opening more widely in MayPrime Minister Boris Johnson announced schools would be opening more widely in May

The government said it hopes all primary school children can come back before the summer holidays, for a month if feasible.

Downing Street believes it is safe to start bringing more children back, with measures in place to reduce risks such as such as smaller class sizes.

Lara Jump, 21, from Thatto Heath, has been furloughed from her job and has been spending her time during lockdown with her twin daughters, Eve and Ezzy, aged three.

“It’s been brilliant spending the quality time that we wouldn’t if I was working and they were in school,” Lara said.

“They’ve become more creative and it’s nice to see their faces when they see family at a closer distance after not being able to for so long.

“It shows that time shouldn’t be take for granted.”

On Monday, Lara dropped her daughters off at Portico Nursery for the first time in months.

With the government saying more children could return as long as there are procedures in place, Lara feels reassured they are in a safe space.

“They were over the moon and couldn’t wait to go back and was asking every five minutes when it’s time to go," she said.

“For me I just take it as another day, I’m happy they are back as it gives me time and I know their nursery is very sterile anyway, without COVID.

“So I know they’re as safe as they can be.”

While there are plenty of parents who now feel the time is right to send their children back to school, there are still many who are anxious about doing so.

One parent said they are still “very worried” and do not feel the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been competent enough to reassure them that is was safe to send their children back to school.

Another mum, who wants to remain anonymous, said they feel like the government is using children as “guinea pigs”.

She said she will not be sending her five-year-old daughter back to school.

“I want my daughter to be safe we haven’t been anywhere in the past 10 weeks apart from her nan’s, but stayed in the car,” she said.

“And if there are six people allowed to come together in the family, well school isn’t family and there will be more kids in the class mixing together.

“My daughter is only five and to try and tell her she can’t play with her friends properly or sit near them at break or lunch time, or if they hurt themselves the teacher can’t really comfort them, sorry but I’m not letting my daughter go through all that.”

St Helens Star:

Many schools have remained open throughout the pandemic for children of key workers and for vulnerable children.

This has provided vital childcare for staff on the front-line of the pandemic, including many NHS staff.

Crucially, these parents have had little choice but to send their children to school, as they still have to work and cannot access childcare through any other means.

It is important to remember that everybody’s situation is different.

There is no right or wrong answer, and no-one should be judged for making a decision they feel is best for their child.

A number of parents have taken social media to stress this point.

Speaking on Facebook, Laura Jane Smith said: “I think people need to stop shaming parents who have no choice. Mine have been in school the whole time, I’m a radiographer and my husband is food delivery.

“They have been perfectly safe there the whole time and as far as I’m aware, no staff or child has been off sick during the last 10 weeks.

“There has only been 12 kids together in school and now more are returning they are being reduced to group sizes of no more than 10.

“Every parent is in a different situation.”

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Leanne Keech replied: “I’m in the same situation.

“My daughter has been in school the whole time, no one has been off with symptoms and the groups are not being changed when the kids come back.

“I’m happy with the procedures put in place and will not be shamed into thinking otherwise.”