Face to face learning is coming back. Not all parents are happy about it.

Students are heading back to school in New South Wales and Victoria this month, and a huge number of mums and dads are breathing a sigh of relief. Learning from home has been stressful and exhausting for a lot of parents, and many have also been worried about their kids missing the social aspects of school. 

But not everyone is feeling the same way. Some parents are anxious about the return to face-to-face learning.

Watch: How To Tell If Lockdowns Are Affecting Your Children And What You Can Do About It. Post continues after video.

Video via ABC.

“I am worried. My daughter is in Year 5, and I just don’t believe she is old enough to be responsible to ‘socially distance’. I know that I’ve been isolating but I don’t know about others. Then at the same time, my daughter is really struggling and I can see that she is so desperate to go back and socialise. I’m so torn on how I feel.”

“I’m in VIC and worried about my unvaccinated kids going back to school and catching COVID from the kids of unvaccinated families (and I realise vaccinated families may also catch and transmit COVID but it is less of a risk). I’m desperate for them to go back too but just very scared that we will be back in and out of isolation because not enough people are vaccinated. That is going to be very cruel to these kids and our families, almost like a false sense that this is all over when we really have months of pain to go.”

“I’m in ACT and am quite scared (my daughter is in daycare, not school) so am keeping her out until the end of the year to see what happens – with the help of grandparents so we can work. I hate that we don’t know if other families’ parents are vaxxed or not. There’s still a lack of evidence on the impact on young children of contracting COVID and my daughter has respiratory issues.”

“I’m a teacher and a parent. I’m relieved as well as terrified at times and then the rest of the time I’m too exhausted for feelings. The hoops our schools are jumping through to reopen are out of this world. My daughter’s kindy classroom has to use a baby gate on the door to keep bush turkeys out so that there is appropriate air flow! That’s quite a cute example but the list of adjustments we are making in my school to try to protect our staff and students are a mile long and many are unachievable or almost impossible to enforce. But there’s a part of me that is looking forward to just jumping in and working towards getting back to a world that feels more normal.”


For parents who have children with underlying health conditions – especially if they’re under the age of 12 and can’t be vaccinated – or other family members with underlying health conditions, there’s even more cause for anxiety. Sydney mum Amanda Brien, whose young daughter has a heart condition, started a petition asking that parents be given the option of continuing online learning for the rest of this year. 

“It was open for one week only, so it’s just closed, and we had 3380 signatures,” Brien tells Mamamia. “I think that was quite overwhelming.”

She says she raised the issue at a P&C meeting at her daughter’s school.

“The answer from the principal, in response to, ‘Can children continue online learning?’ was, ‘No. There’ll be no support from the school. Your child will be marked absent. You can download learning packs from the Department of Education website. You can teach those to your child.’”

Image: Getty. 

Through the petition, Brien heard from other parents in a similar situation. 

“There are so many children, from what I was hearing, with respiratory illness, with disability, in remission from cancer… there are so many conditions. But it’s not just the children, it’s the older people that are living at home as well. Even if they have been vaccinated, parents were still concerned, because you still can catch the virus.”

Brien has concerns about a number of issues in schools, including masks not being mandatory for children under the age of 12, the difficulty of social distancing, and the lack of adequate ventilation in some classrooms. 


“As an ex-teacher myself, I do understand that a lot of schools aren’t designed for adequate ventilation. You have buildings where you have two rooms with a corridor in the middle, so there’s really only effectively one side of windows that you can open.”

Brien says the department has a “great” distance education program, and she thinks teachers who aren’t yet fully vaccinated could deliver learning to kids being kept at home. 

A spokesperson for NSW Education told Mamamia that they understand some members of the community “may be anxious” about sending their children back to school. 

“However, parents and carers can be assured that a combination of health and safety measures have been put in place to ensure that all students and teachers are safe in the school environment,” the spokesperson added.  

“These measures include separating student groups (cohorting), staggering start, break and finishing times to reduce mingling, vaccination requirements for all teaching and non-teaching staff, and mask wearing by staff and older students where appropriate.”

The spokesperson says all teachers and students are expected to return to face-to-face learning after October 25.
“The return to face-to-face learning for immune-compromised students will be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” the spokesperson adds. 

The spokesperson didn’t comment on what the repercussions would be for parents who kept their children home. 

On that note, listen to This Glorious Mess' podcast on getting your kids vaccinated. Post continues after audio. 

In the US, most students returned to face-to-face learning in August and September. A report put out earlier this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics said the number of new child cases remained “exceptionally high”, with 750,000 added over the past four weeks. The report said that although severe illness due to COVID was uncommon in children, there was an “urgent need” to collect more data on longer-term impacts. Last month, COVID deaths among children under 15 in the US reached their highest level yet. There were 41 deaths in a four-week period.

Meanwhile, UK children also went back to school in September, before the vaccine rollout of heathy 12 to 15-year-olds got underway. One in every 14 UK high school students had COVID last week, while one in every 36 primary school students was infected. 

“Not every child has mild symptoms or is asymptomatic,” Brien says. “We looked after the adult population. Why can’t we look after the children?”

Feature Image: Getty.

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