Fury as Sheffield parents ignore social distancing in ‘free for all’ at school gates

The lack of adherance to social distancing measures at the gates of Sheffield schools from parents and children alike has been slammed by others concerned for the safety of pupils and teachers.

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 1:40 pm

Some parents have criticised others for ignoring rules around staggered start and end times for different year groups, gathering in large groups at the school gates, entering school grounds and not wearing masks or making their children do so.

This comes as primary and secondary schools across the city reopen after almost six months off during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, since their reopening last week a number of schools in South Yorkshire have had to send pupils home after cases of Covid-19 were detected.

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Chaucer school Wordsworth Ave Sheffield.

Teachers and schools have given advice to parents about how to prepare their children for the return, and social distancing measures such as staggered starts have been implemented to reduce the number of people arriving at the school gates at a given time.

Classes are kept separate, in ‘bubbles’, so as to limit contact between age groups, which arrive and leave at different times.

However, in some cases there have been complaints that these rules are being ignored, and calls for greater enforcement of the guidelines.

Angela Simpson said of Chaucer School in Parson Cross, where there was a confirmed case of coronavirus earlier this week: “I complained on Friday morning that parents were not following the guide lines set out in the return to school info.

Outwood Academy

"Going in and out of the in gate, congregating outside the gates and arriving earlier than aloted time. All making it impossible to distance.

“School should not have to police this. Parents should have the common sense to follow these rules. Friday morning was a free for all and I felt very nervous.”

And Lisa Fox, a key mental health worker from Townend whose 16-year-old daughter has just started year 11 at Outwood Academy, also criticized the lack of safety at Sheffield’s school gates.

She said: “They only started back last Thursday and they are supposed to be doing staggered starts with younger years going in at 8.30am and older ones going in at 8.50am.

Chaucer school Wordsworth Ave Sheffield.

"When we turned up I couldn’t believe it. Hardly any of the children had a mask on, whether they were getting dropped off or coming off the school bus. They were all piled up together not even a foot apart when they were supposed to be social distancing.

"When I picked my daughter up and there was supposed to be staggered times again, but all the children were going home together. It was just like any ordinary day, like there was no pandemic whatsoever.

“We had not seen our family for more than three months until two weeks ago and if my daughter is not as careful as can be.

"But when she goes back to school nobody is wearing a mask to protect her so she won’t be able to see her grandparents again.

"It is really stressful. We’ve been at home for six months and now the children are just being thrown back into the lion’s den."

Greg Fell, Sheffield’s director of public health, stressed that although schools were encouraging social distancing and mask wearing, it was ‘not their job’ to police parents and children outside the school gates.

He said: “I have had reports sent to me from parents who are not happy about others not observing social distancing at the school gates.

“We asked schools if they would do staggered starts and finishes to try and reduce the number of people congregating outside the gates and most have done that.

“We can’t tell parents what to do but we are encouraging people not to get too close and to wear face coverings where possible.

“Some schools seem to be pushing this a little bit harder and we are not going to stop them.

“But we are not going to be asking the police to monitor school gates and we are not asking schools to act as the police either.

“We can only ask parents to respect social distancing and wear a face covering. However a face covering is not compulsory as school gates are outdoors. I know this can be difficult at school gates but we’re asking people to do their best to be respectful.”

Scott Burnside, headteacher at Chaucer School, said: “The health and safety of our community is our key priority, and we are following local and national advice on the re-opening of schools.

"We are in regular communication with our school community to reinforce the importance of adhering to the measures that we have put in place, including social distancing, and the response of our students, parents and staff has supported an effective start to the academic year in these complex times.

“We have asked that in and around the school site everyone observes social distancing, and have created five access points into the school to further support this and reinforce the importance. Staff are on duty at the start and end of each day to support where any issues arise. Prolonged access onto the school site for parents is by appointment only.

“We would like to thank our community for pulling together in support of our young people, and ask that they continue to support us by maintaining two metre social distancing wherever possible in and around the school site, wearing facemasks where it is hard to socially distance, and regularly washing and sanitising hands.”

Outwood Academy have also been contacted and any statement they provide will be added to this article.