Hundreds of parents in Watford and surrounding areas will not send their children back to primary schools when they reopen from Monday.

The revelation comes after the Observer surveyed 542 parents in the Watford and surrounding areas. The responses were collected between last Friday (May 22) and Thursday (May 28).

Out of 429 parents with children in primary school or nursery:

  • 54 per cent (231) said they would not send their kids back to school in June
  • 31 per cent (135) said they would
  • 15 per cent (63) said they did not know yet

The survey also asked parents if they felt comfortable sending their kids back to school and how worried they were about their children catching Covid-19.

'It's a difficult choice'

While the majority would act on how they felt, six parents said they would send their kids back to school despite serious concerns.

A parent who answered that they were "very worried" about their kids catching coronavirus commented: "It’s so important for children to learn and go back as soon as possible. But it's a difficult choice in the current circumstances."

Another said: "I want my kids to be safe and not worry about catching Covid-19. I am in no hurry to send them back but I think for their own mental health and well being, they need to get some sense of normal routine at least."

Secondary schools

For the 250 parents with children in secondary schools, opinions about the Government's plans were mixed. The plan is to let Year 10s and Year 12s back on campus to get face-to-face exam support from teachers and keep other pupils at home until at least September.

  • 36 per cent of parents (89) thought secondary schools should open later than September
  • 20 per cent (49) thought secondary schools should open sooner than planned
  • 24 per cent (60) agreed with the Government's plan
  • The remaining 52 parents did not have an opinion

Families with at risk members

Parents' decisions could be influenced by whether or not they have vulnerable family members.

One in three parents surveyed live with someone who is at risk of Covid-19 - those who are over 70 or with underlying health conditions.

While nearly half of those without vulnerable members said they would not send their kids to primary school next week, 70 per cent of those with vulnerable members said the same thing.

There is no clear correlation when looking at the views of secondary school parents.

When should schools reopen?

We asked primary and secondary school parents when they would be happy to send their children back to school - and they were able to select more than one answer.

188 parents said schools should open when there is more evidence that the risk of children spreading Covid-19 is low - making it the most popular answer.

165 thought schools should open in September and another 153 thought they should open in June.

Outside of the options given in the survey, about 10 parents wanted to see a low R rate and an effective track and trace system. Four also said schools should open next year.

Falling behind in school vs Covid-19

Several parents expressed fears that their children would miss out on education.

One parent said: "The risk to their education is greater than their risk to Covid-19."

Another said: "The risks to children from Covid-19 appear slight compared to the damage being done to their learning and development."

The survey showed that generally, parents were either worried about their kids falling behind in school or Covid-19.

93 per cent of parents who would send their kids back were "not worried" about their kids getting coronavirus, but 64 per cent were "very worried" about falling behind in school.

Likewise, 82 per cent of those who will refuse to send their kids back were "very worried" about Covid-19, and 84 per cent were "not worried" about their kids missing out on education.

What parents said:

The Observer received more than 200 comments from parents - many of them with mixed views. Here are some of the highlights:

'Children are not guinea pigs'

Several parents expressed anger at the idea that their children are being used as guinea pigs.

One parent said: "I do not want my children used as guinea pigs until the Government are sure. We keep hearing nonsense about children rarely catching it but they are reporting other awful killer illnesses in children which are potentially related to Covid-19. Children are carriers and children at the age of mine do not understand social distancing."

Another said: "If Houses of Parliament are not happy to reconvene then why should my child go to school. They are using children as guinea pigs to see if there is a spike. Schools are breeding grounds for all sorts of bugs at the best of times."

'We can't be living on hold for the rest of our lives'

Other parents were keen for life to get back to normal.

One commented: "All of my children are starting at a new school in September. They are missing their social life and if they have a chance to say goodbye to their school friends when it's safe to do so, then so be it. We can't be living on hold for the rest of our lives. As long as we keep away from vulnerable people we should get through the worst fast."

Another said: "We have to learn to live with the virus. Until the vaccine is found should we all stay away from each other?"

Other comments suggested there were concerns about whether younger children could or knew how to social distance, and fears over a second wave of infections.

The survey also asked parents for their household income and working arrangements - but there was no clear correlation found between this information and their thoughts on schools reopening.