Back to school across Europe: Life in 2020

Despite uncertainty regarding the future of COVID-19, an increase of cases across Europe, as well as fears of a second wave in autumn, one thing is certain: most parents across Europe want to send their children back to school. Yoopies, Europe’s leading childcare provider has conducted a survey of over 3000 parents across the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Lithuania. The UK section of the survey concluded that 76% of British parents want to send their children back to school next week, and only less than a quarter do not.[1]

UK is the least divided on schools opening

A Yoopies led study of European families asked whether parents wanted to send their children back in September. The percentage of parents who want to send their children back is as follows: Lithuania: 77%[1], UK: 76%[2], France: 76%[3], [4] Italy: 63%[5], Spain 59%[6], Portugal: 44%.[7] As European countries scramble to save their economies and get life back on track, it is unsurprising many parents support a return to school, despite the recent increase in cases.

In the UK specifically, over ¾ of parents surveyed want to send their children back in London, the East of England, the South East, and Yorkshire. The North West and West Midlands had the lowest percentage – 64% and 65% respectively.[8] This regional disparity could be a product of local lockdowns experienced or scheduled.

Full-time parents are more likely to support Back to School 

The Yoopies study on British parents showed a clear relationship between parents who want their children to return to school and their working hours. Of those who want to send their children back, 64% were in full-time work, 30% were in part-time work and 6% were unemployed.[1] Contrastingly, of those who do not want to send their children back, 45% were in full-time work, 36% were in part-time work and 18% were unemployed. This suggests those in employment were collectively more in favour of sending their children back to school. Testimonies from parents evidence this trend, as one parent reported, “I need to work from home without the anxiety of home-schooling.” Another mirrors a similar view, “we work full time, we can not support our children at home in any meaningful manner.” The conclusion is clear: schools reopening are a lifeline for parents to continue working, and the economy depends on this.

In light of the difficulties of work-life balance that lockdown posed, having a childcare solution is essential to ensure parents can work. 77% of parents in full-time employment admitted they would find it “difficult” to manage work and childcare should schools not be open.[2] Across Europe, similar fears resonate. 64%[3] of Italian parents feel they would not be able to stay at home with their children and in France, 63%[4] of parents do not have a childcare solution in place should schools reclose.

“Socialising, routine and mental wellbeing”: key reasons to send children back

Many UK parents are already in agreement with the Government’s “national priority being all students returning […] for their education and wellbeing.”[5] A reoccurring opinion among many parents surveyed is that the virus is less dangerous than the long term effects of missing school. One parent told us “it’s important to return to some form of normality, my children are bored at home, and not being at school has a detrimental effect on their development.” Another parent is in agreement, “children need to get back for their mental health, social skills and to get back on track academically.”

Safety, second wave, and social distancing risk”: key reasons to keep children home

Despite Government efforts to ‘reassure every parent and pupil that schools are ready’[6], not all parents are in agreement. Nearly ¼ parents surveyed still want to keep their child at home.[7] Main concerns included: not trusting school safety measures, worries of bringing the virus home, and fears of a second wave. One mother pointed out that “children are not going to be able to socially distance, they’ll be thankful to see their friends again and they’ll want that physical contact they’ve been lacking.” Another criticised the Government, saying “having a large number of people come together at the start of Autumn is asking for trouble.”

Parents aren’t the only ones with concerns, teachers unions are also calling for ‘greater clarity on what to do if there is a spike in cases,’. Francesca Chong, General Manager of Yoopies UK concluded: “To protect the economy, the Government should not only ensure a safe return to school in September but must also publish a long term safety strategy with a clear back-up plan should there be a spike in cases.”

What are your thoughts?

[1]Yoopies Survey: Back To School

[2] Yoopies UK Back to School Survey

[3] Yoopies Italy Back to School Survey

[4] Yoopies France Back to School Survey (948 parents)

[5] Education Secretary Gavin Williamson:

[6]  Education Secretary Gavin Williamson:

[7] Yoopies Survey: Back To School 2020

[1] Yoopies Lithuania Back to School Survey (218 parents)

[2] Yoopies UK Back to School Survey

[3] Yoopies France Back to School Survey (948 parents)

[4] Yoopies Portugal  Back to School Survey (319 parents)

[5] Yoopies Italy Back to School Survey (580 parents)

[6] Yoopies Spain Back to School Survey (423 parents)

[7] Yoopies Portugal Back to School Survey (319 parents)

[8] Yoopies UK Back to School Survey

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