We have been let down by those who were meant to look after us. Time to protect our young and our families together as schools return.

First published in August 2021.

I am being asked by many parents who are understandably concerned about the lack of mitigations in schools on what they can do when schools re-open to protect their children and families.

Here are a few options, but I am very mindful that not everyone will be able to do all of these things. I recognise that none of these options is ideal, but we have been let down by the government, public health bodies, and scientific leadership – who were meant to look after us. So, we have to do our best as communities now, collectively, to protect our young and our families.


Here are a few options:

Organise, crowdfund, or apply for grants for HEPA filters in classrooms (we are doing this for our school: HEPA filtration device, MERV-13 filters for the Rosenthal cube, and fan).

Source CO2 monitors if you can – if your school will accept to build pressure on the government.

Your child can wear an N95/99 mask which will offer some protection.

Sign petitions asking the government to resource air filtration devices for all classrooms.

Write to your MP demanding adequate ventilation, monitoring, and masks in schools until community transmission is lower, and vaccines for 12-15-year-olds.

Write to headteachers to stop indoor PE/singing/wind instruments while infection rates are high – ask your school to move as many activities outdoors as possible.

Get your child vaccinated if they are eligible.

Set up parent discussion groups to inform other parents if a child is positive – schools are no longer allowed to contact-trace and children are not considered contacts in schools, so you won’t know if your child has been exposed!

Consider remote learning options if you know your child has been exposed.

Consider remote learning options if you are clinically vulnerable, immunosuppressed – or your child is and hasn’t been vaccinated yet.

Discuss these with your school.

Wear masks at drop-off and pick-up.

Contact parents groups like Parents United UK, SafeEdForAll and specialised legal firms if you are being forced to bring a child into a high exposure environment or if they are not being allowed to wear masks. Even more important when either they or a member of the household is clinically vulnerable.

Homeschooling in a bubble with friends and/or community members is one option, although I recognise this is not ideal and many parents (including myself) cannot do this, and it is a huge decision to make. And the impact on children of changing education environment has to be considered.

Let’s try and keep community rates down which will help – this means limiting indoor socialising, large gatherings, wearing N95 masks indoors, ventilating rooms, socially distancing, getting tested when symptomatic, or when asked to as a contact, and isolating when asked to.

It is unlikely the situation in the UK will improve without significant advocacy, given the stance of many in the scientific and paediatric active enhanced disease surveillance (PAEDS) community which has been to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on children against all global evidence – and this is unlikely to change, without public pressure.

I think it is very likely we will see significant educational disruption and impact on children and staff once schools re-open in England. This is already apparent in Scotland. 


Dr Deepti Gurdasani, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology, Statistical Genetics, Machine Learning, Queen Mary University of London.


Going Further:

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 28 August 2021 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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