Words & pics by Ed King
Ed’s note… The images used in the article are archive pictures of schools in Erdington and ARE NOT RELATED to the people who have supplied quotes or their children.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, or have any updates or developments from a school in Erdington, please get in touch – you can send us a direct message via the Erdington Local Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org
As schools reopen after the half term holidays, families across Erdington are being ‘threatened with fines’ if they still feel the classroom is not COVID-19 safe and keep their children at home.
Despite another national lockdown closing the country from 5th November, parents and carers are being told that all young people must go back to school this week – or literally pay the price for any absences.
Birmingham City Council had previously taken the stance to not impose the fixed penalty notices, which had been set by the Department of Education in July, electing to wave the fines for the first half term.
But as school gates open for the last few weeks of the Autumn term, families keeping their children at home could be charged up to £120 for every empty chair they now leave in the classroom.
With increased concerns over the rising cases of coronavirus, many Erdington parents and carers feel they should be allowed to choose what is best for their children – without facing even more debt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Natasha Court has two children at primary school in Erdington, she says: “I believe it is completely wrong that the City Council are threatening parents with fines for actively carrying out their duty of care to protect their children whilst still ensuring they are being educating them at home.
“All children need an education, 100%, but a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not appropriate, particularly in the midst of a worsening health pandemic.”
She adds: “I have two children with health conditions who would both be at heightened risks of serious complications should they catch COVID-19. I have my own health conditions too. No matter what schools do, they cannot protect our children in a class of 30.
“Fines will hit the financial and mental wellbeing of the families who are already struggling. So the ‘alternatives’ they are left with are to send them to school and be put at risk, or de-register and be let down by the system that is supposed to help ALL children get a strong start to life through education. This is not right nor fair.”
Another Erdington parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I have been threatened with fines from the Council if I now don’t send my child into school.
“This is completely unfair. How can they tell me school is safe for my child when they have already had cases in the school?
“With cases and deaths rising sharply now all I want to do is protect my whole family, yet I am unable to do that due to potentially being fined.
“Attending school during a pandemic should be the parents’ choice to make.”
Schools across Birmingham open for the final weeks of the Autumn term from Monday 2nd November.
As set by the Department of Education in July this year, fixed penalties of £60 can be imposed for any absentee child – increasing to £120 if not paid within 21 days.
Minister for Education, Gavin Williams, announcing fines on LBC Radio (first broadcast on July 29th)
For the latest information on coronavirus restrictions in Birmingham, issued by Birmingham City Council, visit www.birmingham.gov.uk/coronavirus_advice
For the latest information on the lockdown starting from 5th November, issued by Government, visit www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november