A mother says Redbridge parents who want their children to go back to school despite the council’s stance are afraid to say so for fear of being branded "irresponsible”.

The council’s leadership was one of the first in the UK to take a firm stance against the Government’s suggested reopening date of June 1.

Leader Cllr Jas Athwal confirmed today his position “has not changed” after criticism from Redbridge Conservatives.

While many parents joined a Zoom meeting last week discussing how to support school staff, others question why children in neighbouring boroughs are able to return to classes next week.

Read more: Redbridge school staff oppose returning to work

A Redbridge mother, who asked to remain anonymous due to fears of backlash, said: “Locally it is being made out that this is supported by all parents and the newspaper quotes the big Zoom call which happened.

“But when is someone going to report on the parents that want and need their children to go back to school but don’t have this option available to them?

“The same parents who are also too frightened to dare to say on social media that they support the return to school for fear of ‘mum shaming’ and being branded irresponsible.

“There have been some terrible things going on in school parent Whatsapp groups over it all.”

Read more: Leader refuses to change position on schools reopening

She said ten weeks of homeschooling had affected not only her mental health but that of her children, adding: “My friends at other schools in Epping Forest and Waltham Forest are all sending their children back next week.

“We feel completely unsupported and let down by the local council.”

In his statement today, Cllr Athwal said that, as a parent, he empathised with the concerns of those on both sides of the argument.

He said: “I know that there is a genuine concern at the prospect of children returning to school.

“At the same time, there is also a collective desire to see children get back to receiving a formal education as soon as possible.”

Read more: Conservatives criticise leader for not consulting them on schools

However, he confirmed that the council would only support each school reopening when it had “clearly demonstrated proper measures have been taken to keep children and staff safe and reassured”.

While the Government’s guidance recommends no more than 15 children should be added to classes, Redbridge Council suggested a limit of ten more pupils in each class.

Schools that reopen are also advised to stagger start and finish times, create timetables for cleaning and handwashing during the day and do daily deep-cleans once children have gone home.

Many Redbridge primary schools are choosing to delay until at least June 15 and were “highly unlikely”, according to Cllr Athwal, to accommodate all four year groups suggested by the Government.

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