Single mothers have said the strain of home schooling their children is “exhausting” and worsening, with some calling for the reopening of education centres in England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said England’s schools will reopen “as fast as possible”, with lockdown restrictions being reviewed on February 15, but could not guarantee that pupils would return to classes before Easter.
Jessie Westwood, a self-employed single mother from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, said she needs additional support to feel comfortable with schools staying shut – suggesting parents could be paid to home school.
The 36-year-old runs wedding planning business Studio Sorores and campaigns for #WhatAboutWeddings, a campaign which aims to raise awareness of the pressures on the industry.
She has two children, aged six and eight.
“It’s been extremely stressful… as a single working mother, I don’t have anyone to share the burden of responsibility with and am time poor,” she told the PA news agency.
“I’m feeling exhausted… yes, I want the schools reopened as soon as possible.
“I would be prepared to have them home longer if there was a clear exit strategy and my business/livelihood was protected so I could focus more on it without the worry of finances adding to anxiety.
“In short – protect female-led industries, ensure jobs and businesses for parents are protected, pay us to home school and ensure more commitment to health (physical and mental) is included in school communications.”
Ms Westwood said home schooling is harder now than it was during the lockdown in 2020.
“The online learning is more structured and there is a feeling of pressure to get assignments handed in daily, whereas before it felt temporary and at our own pace,” she said.
“This time it feels like our children’s development will be impacted if we don’t commit fully.
“We don’t go out for exercise as much – I’m either home schooling or desperately catching up on work.”
Charlie Bingham is a single mother to two sons, aged four and five, and is also completing her final year as a mature student, studying archaeology at the University of York.
Ms Bingham said she sees both sides to the argument on reopening schools, but fears for her children’s ability to reassimilate when lockdown measures eventually lift.
“For us personally, it’s getting worse… the longer they are off school, nursery, the more lonely they are getting, the more fractious they’re becoming and the harder it will be to get them back into the swing of school full time,” the 28-year-old told PA.
“As a home schooling parent trying to finish my own degree from the kitchen table, it would of course be brilliant for them to be back in school. And better for the kids.
“But obviously the benefits need to outweigh the risks of spreading viruses. So it’s hard to know what is best.”
Ms Bingham added that her sons’ school has been “fantastic and supportive”.
Jessica Lawrence is a full-time single mother to her eight-year-old daughter Eva and three-year-old son Joe.
The 41-year-old, from Cambridgeshire, said although things have been difficult, she does not want schools to reopen “anytime soon”.
“I’m not going to lie, this lockdown has hit us hard, and home schooling has been really stressful for me and the children,” the 41-year-old told PA.
“However, with that said, I’d be happier to keep her home and doing what we’re doing until it’s safe to return to school.”