More than half of parents won't send their children back to school, exclusive ITV News poll reveals

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent John Ray

More than half of parents in England will not send their children back to school even if they reopen before the end of the current academic year, exclusive polling for ITV News has shown.

Almost two thirds of parents say they feel it would be "unsafe" to send their child back to school before the summer holidays as the coronavirus crisis continues.

Health concerns for their children is also a major worry for most parents (82 per cent) if they return before the end of the 2019-20 academic year, with just 16 per cent saying they had no concerns for their child's heath once they return to a classroom.

Polling carried out for ITV News also showed that most parents believe teachers (53 per cent) should have a greater say than the Government (27 per cent) on whether schools should be reopened.

  • Teaching Union member and professor discuss the reopening of schools

Other findings show:

  • Nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) of parents think it is unsafe to send their children back to school, while 35 per cent believe it is safe.

  • The vast majority of parents are concerned about their children’s health if they have to return to primary school before the end of the year. This includes four in five fathers (79 per cent) and nearly nine in ten mothers (86 per cent).

  • More than four out of five (82 per cent) of parents sympathise with teachers if they refuse to return to work, while just 13 per cent say they do not sympathise with teaching staff.

  • Most parents believe teachers (53 per cent) should have the biggest say on whether primary schools reopen, while 50 per cent of parents believe they should have more of a say than scientific advisers (37 per cent), teaching unions (29 per cent), the Government (27 per cent) and local authorities (21 per cent).

  • More than half (57 per cent) of parents believe that reopening schools will lead to an increase in Covid-19 cases.

  • Fifty-two per cent of parents believe thorough deep cleaning of schools is the most important aspect to implement when reopening schools. Forty per cent believe social distancing is important, while 39 per cent said antibody tests are necessary.

  • Mothers (57 per cent) are more likely than fathers (47 per cent) to prioritise a thorough deep cleaning of schools.

Schools are trying to find ways to keep social distancing in classrooms. Credit: PA

Parents who we spoke to ITV spoke of their concerns as plans to restart schools ramp up.

Zainab Zaeem-Sattar, who works as a solictor, is reluctant to send her daughter Mahadiya Sattar-Patel back to school.

Ms Zaeem-Sattar said: "I feel it's too soon, especially because children are at that age where they don't understand the actual concept of social distancing. It can impact on their emotional wellbeing.

"And our school in particular made it very clear that although they will stagger the start and end times and they'll have smaller groups, they cannot guarantee social distancing."

Mum-of-five and reception teacher Emily Walford said she believes it is important for her children's wellbeing to start back at school soon.

She said: "I'm not that worried, maybe that's wrong, I don't know, but I think we need to take a step forward.

"When I weigh it up, that's the choice I'm going to make. I've been in school anyway and so has my husband so we've already been exposed to lots of children."

Dr Ash Zam, who works as a GP in West Yorkshire, said he believes his family has already had the disease and would have built up some immunity to coronavirus.

He said if his daughter Aman, who is in year six, hadn't already had the disease, he would have to think "very carefully" about allowing her back to school.

Boris Johnson has been keen to get children back into school before the end of the academic year but has faced significant pushback from teaching unions and local councils who say it is too soon.

The Government's Sage committee, led by Sir Patrick Vallance, is due to publish evidence on Friday which will outline whether it is safe for teachers to go back to school.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has promised that scientific evidence in favour of reopening schools will be published shortly to ease fears from parents and school staff.

  • ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke looks into the science behind the government's decision on schools

Under proposals set out by the prime minister, reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils from primary schools will go back to school on June 1.

The planned reopen for June 1 only affects schools in England. Scotland plans to send pupils back on a part-time basis from August 11. Northern Ireland hopes to send children back in late August while Wales has not published plans on children's return to school yet.

Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland secretary, said: "Obviously, schools and local authorities will have to make their own decisions but I hope that they will have the confidence to support the schools in opening from June 1 - for those year groups, following the guidelines, to ensure those children can benefit from having the education they need in order to be ready for the future."

Under proposals set out by the prime minister, reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils from primary schools will go back to school on June 1. Credit: PA

A Department for Education spokesperson said that advice from SAGE shows there is a "lower overall risk from opening schools and nurseries to younger children", and that they are less likely to become unwell if infected with coronavirus compared to adults.

“This cautious, phased approach for allowing a limited number of pupils back into classrooms has been, and will continue to be, informed by the best possible scientific and medical advice.”

* Savanta ComRes interviewed 1,009 parents in England online between 19 and 21 May 2020. Data was unweighted.

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