Coronavirus: What do to if schools close

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has officially been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

There are many countries which have made the decision to close schools and colleges and cancel mass events.  The UK government have resisted pressure to do the same, and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was adamant at yesterday’s press conference that following advice from the world’s leading scientists and medics that schools will remain open, for now.

He has not ruled out the need to close them at some point in this new ‘delay’ phase of managing COVID-19, but for now it is business as usual for our little ones.  In fact when you hear that for the closing of schools to make a real impact on the spread of infection measures would need to be in place for between 13 and 15 weeks, it seems a sensible decision. 

None of us want to be responsible for spreading the disease, but experts state they are expecting around 80% of us to get it anyway, mostly with mild symptoms, and closing the schools for an extended period could possibly have a catastrophic effect on life and the economy of the country.

Schools will be closing for two or more weeks in April for Easter, but should the Government introduce closures sooner, parents up and down the country are going to be worried about how this will affect their children’s learning, as well the ability to continue with their own working lives during this unprecedented and unsettling times.

From a learning perspective, schools have been told to prepare study packs for all students in the event that schools close early.  These learning packs will cover the necessary topics required for students for all key stages and be set in an age appropriate manner from exercise work books to using some form of Teams or cloud communication with older students.  For parents concerned about summer exams, Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) have advised schools to continue to prepare for the exams to take place as usual and to continue studying towards sitting GCSE’s and A-Levels from May onwards.

But how do you manage working from home alongside children at home?

If you are unable to work due to having to care for young children at home, then you are entitled to take Parental Leave from work.  Parental Leave is unpaid leave that is available to parents who need to care for children up to the age of 18 years old.  This leave needs to be taken in weeklong stretches up to four weeks in one year and 18 weeks over the 18-year period.  Another option would be to see if you can use any untaken annual leave to cover any period away from the office.

So, what is the best way to keep the children entertained? Well, again this is age dependant.  Older children usually have their own individual interests, be it reading, movies, online games with friends, etc, but for younger children you may need to get creative.  As any parent who has endured the two-week isolation of a chicken pox infection will know, scheduling some form of entertainment is paramount to avoid cabin fever! 

Ideas include:

  • Arts and crafts – potato paint prints, finger painting or just your everyday crayon drawing – you can find free downloadable drawings or art ideas online.  Check out our ideas.
  • Make an indoor den – grab some sheets, throw a few cushions around and get creative – kids often love fort building and can be quite imaginative when given free reign to make their own special space to play.
  • Home movie time – turn off the lights, download a movie or stream from an online service and snuggle up for some old fashion family fun.
  • Baking – from cookies to cupcakes, get them British Bake Off ready with a few simple recipes to make sugary delights.
  • Letter writing – get them to practise their writing skills by sending letters to fellow students as pen pals.
  • If you have outdoor space – then there are a number of games from tag, stuck in the mud to capture the flag you can play.
  • If you have a garden then you can get ahead of your spring clean and cut back shrubs, clear the borders and plant seeds.

How to make your own playdough

You will need: 2 cups plain flour (all purpose), 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, ½ cup salt, up to 1.5 cups boiling water (adding bit by bit until it feels just right), food colouring (optional – this really can get messy!).

You might also want to use some household items like child-friendly cookie cutters and rolling pins to make shapes with the playdough.

What to do:

  1. Mix the flour, salt and oil in a large bowl. If you’re using food colouring, add it to the boiling water then pour into the flour mixture.
  2. Stir until it forms a sticky dough.
  3. Allow it to cool down then take out of the bowl and knead it for a couple of minutes until all of the stickiness has gone. 
  4. Keep kneading until it’s the perfect consistency! If it’s still sticky add a little more flour until just right.

If the children want to keep the figures that you make, simply bake in a 250 degree oven for approximately one hour and hey presto, your play dough will harden!

Coronavirus:  advice for your family or business

Should you employ a nanny or own a small business and are concerned about your obligations to them should they be affected by the coronavirus, check out our recent advice.

Our team can also help if you are responsible for an elderly relative, please take a look at our article on helping keep them safe.

The Parental Choice Family Care team are experts on finding the perfect childcare for working families.

If you need advice on the best childcare solution for your family get in touch to find out more, or check out our useful downloads and resources.  |  020 8979 6453

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