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Parent calls for greater coronavirus school restrictions after daughter comes home with head lice


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A mother-of-two fears that guidelines designed to protect school children from contracting Covid-19 are not effective, after her daughter caught head lice twice in the space of three weeks.

Anna Annett-Prior, 36, of Shorncliffe Heights, Folkestone , has said the situation proves that class or year-group bubbles are not sufficient to stop pupils bringing the virus back into the family home.

Anna Annett-Prior, pictured with her wife Carlie, daughter Millie and son Otis
Anna Annett-Prior, pictured with her wife Carlie, daughter Millie and son Otis

Millie, 6, who is in Year 2 at Turner Morehall Primary on Chart Road, is in a socially-distanced class bubble, but during playtime the children are much closer to one another.

Mrs Annett-Prior said: "This is the second time in three weeks for her to come back with head lice, and I thought they're meant to keep their distance - in classrooms they do but they don't when they're playing.

"I feel this is what's going to cause the second outbreak of it, because these kids may only get it lightly but they're the ones then passing it on to their parents at home.

"You come back to 'well I can't go and see my family if there's more than six of us, but the children can interact with 20 people at school' - why is one thing OK and one thing not?

"More should have been done at the beginning and more needs to be done now."

Mrs Annett-Prior worries the restrictions are not enough to protect the children or their families from the virus
Mrs Annett-Prior worries the restrictions are not enough to protect the children or their families from the virus

Mrs Annett-Prior made clear she was not criticising the school itself, which she said is doing an 'excellent' job, but questioning the government guidelines which were put into place before the school term started.

She also said their household has been hit with a spate of colds in the past month, stemming either from her wife's workplace or Millie's school.

The mum of two said: "If colds are still getting passed on, how are we exactly fighting Covid - surely if we can catch a cold we can catch Covid, even with all of these measures are in place?"

Although she understands the difficulties of keeping children away from each other, Mrs Annett-Prior suggested the children should not have all returned to the classroom in September.

She said: "I don't think it was essential to send all of the kids back - would it have been that bad if they'd have had an additional year, kept going with the home schooling and left the teacher to core subjects like Maths and English?

Professor Martin Michaelis, the University of Kent
Professor Martin Michaelis, the University of Kent

"You can't keep the kids away from each other, and I do understand that school is important, but we've never had a a pandemic like this in our lifetime, and we might have to assess the fact that perhaps they shouldn't be going to school so soon."

Professor Martin Michaelis, of the University of Kent ’s School of Biosciences, said children contracting lice proves the difficulty in socially distancing children from one another.

He said: "If lice or the common cold spreads, Covid-19 will spread too, that's obvious.

"Head lice is an important signal that you can't keep children completely apart, but it's not realistic if you have a class of small children to keep them apart.

"In an ideal world you would have a good testing system where everybody would be tested once a week."

Mr Michaelis said mass testing would be the best way to keep the infection spreading in places like schools
Mr Michaelis said mass testing would be the best way to keep the infection spreading in places like schools

Professor Michaelis also believes the terms needs to shift to remind people that it is very difficult to be 100% safe from the virus.

"I don't think these terms 'Covid-safe' and Covid-secure' are helping at all, because it gives a false sense of security," he said.

"That should be banned, nobody should say it, because there is no absolute security - we can only increase or reduce the likelihood of becoming infected."

Since the autumn term began in September, 38 schools in the county have had to send year group 'bubbles' home for two weeks or taken other measures to protect pupils.

Earlier this week, more than 130 pupils were sent home from Rose Street Primary School in Sheerness, after two members of staff tested positive for the virus .

Watch: Alan Brookes, Kent Association of Headteachers, discusses the success of the school bubble system

Meanwhile some education experts have criticised the success of the bubble system.

Alan Brookes, chairman of the Kent Association of Headteachers, said: "The idea of bubbles is a good one, but it is not practical to think particularly in primary schools that these children are going to remain 2 metres distant from each other.

"You can reduce the risk as much as possible but you can't impose that, it simply doesn't work."

Mrs Morris, acting principal of Morehall Primary, said: "'Pupils are in class bubbles as per the government guidance.

"We have followed a robust nationally recognised risk assessment on our processes.

"Furthermore, we have had an external check on these from an independent health and safety consultancy who scored us 'outstanding'.

"We consider we have taken all the appropriate measures to ensure the safety of our pupils but are happy to meet with parents to discuss any concerns."

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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