As thousands of pupils return to classrooms across the West Country, education unions are calling for a temporary ban on school absence fines as some parents say they are 'apprehensive' about the return.
It will be the first time many pupils in England have stepped into a classroom since the coronavirus lockdown in March, when schools were closed except to look after vulnerable children and those of key workers.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said the Government should temporarily scrap fines for parents who do not send their children back to class due to fears around coronavirus.
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said, “If you are a parent and you are worried about safety, a fine is unlikely to make you feel any safer.
“The Government understands this, but the threat of fines still remains, so we’re urging the Government to take the threat of fines off the table for the coming term.
“This would send a powerful signal to parents and families and could well mean that more of them are willing to bring their children back to school, which is what we all want to see.”
Many school teachers have been ensuring social distancing measures are in place for the return of students and staff.
Tables have been measured out, one way systems in place and staggered lunch breaks implemented.
One parent in Exeter told ITV News she was "apprehensive about the changes but looking forward to it nonetheless."
The school leaders’ union said while it hoped attendance would be “as close to 100% as possible”, it understood “there will be some families who do not yet feel ready to return”.
Its recent survey of more than 4,000 school leaders in England and Wales found that 97% plan to reopen their schools to all pupils at the start of the autumn term, with the date varying across the country.
The remaining 3%, which were not immediately reopening, were planning transition periods for new pupils or phasing entry to alleviate students’ anxieties, according to the survey.
Meanwhile, more than a quarter (26%) of parents said they were not planning to send their child back to school at the start of term, while a further 20% remained undecided, according to a poll by the charity Parentkind.
Its survey of 3,400 parents also found that 78% opposed fines for school absences during the autumn term.