London Covid: The London mum who’s kept her children off school for a year – MyLondon



The second week of another term of home schooling is well underway, and many parents are facing similar struggles to those they faced back in March last year.

But what about those people who didn’t send their children back to school after the first lockdown?

We spoke to one Kingston mum about her experience.

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Nancy Griffiths, 54, withdrew two of her school-age children from school in February before the first national lockdown was announced.

Her youngest daughter, Tia, 12, has Down’s Syndrome as well as heart and lung problems, and Nancy wasn’t going to take the risk keeping her in school.

She has not been to school since.

It seemed like a drastic decision at the time, but Nancy says that the most recent lockdown, and huge rise in cases, shows she made the right choice.

Tia, 12, has been learning from home since before the first lockdown in February last year due to her health problems (Image: Submitted)

“I’m glad that I am a really strong person, and I’ll do anything to protect my children. So I know of other people that won’t speak up if they’re told they’re going to get fined, and they were sending their kids to school, because they were scared. It’s all scare tactics.

“You know, as a parent, I think you should have a right. You know, I’m a single mum, I’ve got three special needs kids, so my children are extremely vulnerable. But I’ve fought and fought.

“It would be so much easier to say, yeah, off you go kids, bye bye, I get four or five hours on my own, but I’m not risking their health. I don’t think the Government knows its arse from its elbow.

“They’re saying ‘this is safe, you’re safe’, and then it’s not, and then it is, like, I don’t think the Government knows […] they just don’t understand it.

“[With coronavirus] you can’t see it. So, you know, if there was a gunman on the loose outside or a sniper, you wouldn’t go outside, would you, because there’s a chance that you’re going to get shot.”

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Fortunately for Nancy, both of her children’s schools have been very supportive.

Tia was due to move to secondary school in September, but after a risk assessment they agreed with Nancy that she was vulnerable and could stay at home.

“We’ve just got loads of books, and we’re teaching her life skills. But she’s happy. This is the main thing. She’s got a mental age of about a five year old, so she’s happy to play with dolls. So she’s really not a problem. And I’m glad the school decided that she’s too vulnerable to go in because it saved me a massive fight.”

Nancy says the one-to-one interaction she is able to give Tia at home means her hand control has improved in the last year, but she does worry about her missing out on friendships at school.

Mum, Nancy Griffiths, with her daughter Tia (Image: Submitted)

Her older son, Tyler, 14, has special educational needs and started back at school in September, but it didn’t all go to plan.

“He was in school, I think, for a couple of weeks, but couldn’t cope with all the changes, all the rules, and [had a] major meltdown,” said Nancy.

“He was put on a reduced timetable. So he was only in school for two or three hours a day. It had a massive impact on his mental health.”

She says his experience has been “really quite bad”.

“He also struggles to learn virtually. He can’t go on to a Zoom, and watch what the teacher is trying to show him. He literally has to have somebody behind him.”

Fortunately, despite some initial teething problems, some money was provided by the local council to help Tyler and other children with similar needs.

He’s now having some one-to-one Zoom lessons and being sent home more creative and practical work to do, such as learning how to rewire a plug.

When asked when she would be happy for both her children to be back in school full time again, Nancy is unsure.

“I don’t want any COVID deaths to be honest with you. I mean, it’s out of control.”

She says it is getting harder to cope now in the winter months.

“Everyone’s on top of each other. Everyone’s got their own issues,” she said.

She manages to find some time to relax by walking the dogs, but worries if people come too near her.

“People are everywhere. There’s cars on the road. It’s not a lockdown. Ham Common, where we normally walk the dogs, you know, we’re walking dogs up little alleyways that are at the back of the house, so that we’re not bumping into anybody.”

She says a typical day involves getting the children to do their school work in the mornings, before walking the dog and playing in the afternoon, but it is beginning to take its toll.

“We really struggle to be honest with you, I can’t give them all my time.”

If you have a story or information for us from this part of London, please email sian.bayley@reachplc.com