Return to School – Scaremongering on Social Media


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought lots of new challenges and worries for parents and the return to school is one such example. Now as September looms and the government want all children back in school, many parents will be wondering how children will be cared for or protected if a suspected case of COVID-19 is found in their child’s school.

Social media is not helping to allay parents’ fears around the return to school. Instead it is making the situation worse by people posting and sharing fake reports and scaremongering stories. The latest one going around is an apparent conversation call between a school headteacher and a parent. It claims to demonstrate new powers that schools in the UK have, which allow them to remove children from school and refuse to tell parents where they are.

In the alleged exchange, the parent is told they are not allowed to collect their child, and that they could not be told where their child is.

As is often the case with such social media copy & paste claims, there are no sources or evidence offered. While the Coronavirus Act 2020 does offer a variety of new – albeit temporary – powers to UK authorities, healthcare workers and the police, there is nothing within the legislation that would allow a school to prevent parents from seeing their children, or having a parent refused information as to where their child is. The text of the Coronavirus Act 2020 can be read in full here.

Parents of children due to return to school should also be suspicious that such claims are fake especially as this message began circulating when the vast majority of children in the UK are currently not yet back at school!

Schools, naturally, have the powers to remove and isolate children if they develop symptoms of COVID-19, in a bid to try and stop the spread of the virus. However, despite scaremongering messages like the one above, current guidance from the UK government states that the child should be isolated in a room with no other children until they can be collected by their parents or guardian. From the UK Government website.

If anyone in the school becomes unwell with a new and persistent cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), they must be sent home and advised to follow ‘stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection’, which sets out that they should self-isolate for at least 10 days and should arrange to have a test to see if they have coronavirus (COVID-19).

If a child is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door, depending on the age and needs of the child, with appropriate adult supervision if required. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. If it is not possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people.

Given that the circulating messages above provide no evidence, reasoning or sources, and the messages contradict current UK government guidance, they should be dismissed as false.

If you have any family issues, please speak to our team in confidence and find out more about how we can help. Contact us on 01473 617 317.

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.

Ipswich Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk