Weeks before the 2022 school year is due to commence, 66% of Australian parents don’t believe it’s safe for children to return to classrooms as planned in the middle of the Omicron outbreak of COVID19.
One-fifth of parents said it is safe for school to return (20%) while 14% stated they don’t know.
The results from The Parenthood’s national survey of 3043 families indicate there is considerable apprehension about returning to school. More than half of respondents said school should be delayed to allow precautions to be taken around the provision of masks, Rapid Antigen Tests and ventilation (56%), to allow the peak of Omicron to pass (52%) and to ensure more children can be vaccinated (51%).
“There is consensus among a significant majority of Australian parents that returning to school in the current circumstances is not yet safe for children,” The Parenthood’s Executive Director Georgie Dent said. “In the weeks since the 2021 school year ended the Covid picture around the country has changed dramatically. Having spent almost two years heeding the strict message that keeping kids home was the best way to keep them, and others, safe from this virus it is not surprising that against a backdrop of surging cases parents aren’t feeling confident or certain that returning as planned makes sense.”
“The leap of faith, from strict rules and limited case numbers to few restrictions and an exponential explosion in cases and hospitalisations, that parents and children are effectively being asked to trust is evidently difficult.”
Despite many health experts publicly calling for schools to open and return as planned, parents remain far more worried about the health risk that covid poses to their child/ren (62%) than the impact of additional disruption on their child/ren’s well-being (36%).
“Two-thirds of parents not having confidence that schools can be safe is a considerable problem. Without a plan and leadership that recognises the genuine concerns of parents, families are going to be placed in an untenable position.”
“Either they have to send their children notwithstanding their belief it’s not safe or they will have to keep their children home without necessarily having the support or resources for remote learning.
Almost three quarters of respondents (72%) rated the stress on their family/household right now due to covid as being either 7,8,9 or 10 out of ten.
“The mental and physical toll the pandemic has exacted from parents, particularly parents of primary school aged children, is well-documented. It is almost unforgivable that these same Australians are now being presented with this dilemma.”
More than three-quarters of families (83%) indicated they have already had their school children vaccinated, have an appointment or are planning to book an appointment.
The Parenthood is calling on Federal and State governments to work constructively, as a matter of urgency, to develop and communicate a national plan to ensure the return to school is as safe as possible for children and teachers.
“More than anything parents, as well as teachers, need clear guidance that will instil them with the confidence they need that the safety of their children and school communities is considered paramount,” Dent said.