SENDING youngsters back to school could have a harmful impact on children, according to a union rep.

Swindon’s National Education Union representative Debbie Brown – a teacher herself – was speaking on behalf of 1,400 members of the town’s school staff.

She told of the shock the union felt when it was revealed how young the government wanted children returning to be.

In an Adver poll yesterday, after 1,000 votes, 65 per cent of readers said they would not send their child back to school, with 17 per cent saying they would.

Another 18 per cent said they would wait and see what measures were introduced.

Debbie told the Adver: “We expected the announcement to be that it would be Year 6 children that would be the first coming back on a safe, phased return – obviously they’ve got an important time ahead.

“They are of an age where they can understand social distancing and the importance of it, and most schools could manage that once health conditions are in a safe place.

“To say we were shocked when we had that announcement on that Sunday night that it was going to be reception, Year 1 and Year 6, would be an understatement.”

She believes it is too early for pupils to return, especially those as young as four.

Debbie added: “You are looking at the youngest pupils in education.

“Out of the entire breadth of education, those are the children who will be least able to manage social distancing.

“You are talking about four-year-olds and if you want to be able to enforce social distancing with children of that age you are going to have to put things in place which actually will not be good for their social, emotional and mental health.

“If you are looking at enforcing social distancing on those children, it is going to be horrific for them.”

Debbie spoke about experiences she has at her own school where only a limited number of pupils are in.

She said: “We have 15 children at my school and they range from seven to 11. Every single day without fail, we are reminding them to social distance.

“These children have a good concept of what that distance looks like and the reasons why it should happen, and even those children are struggling to remember because they are social creatures.

“We have encouraged them all through school to build on their social relationships and suddenly that’s had to change.”

With the union being against the June 1 return, Debbie was keen to stress that they were not abandoning the children.

“Teachers have been setting remote learning,” she added.

"And we’re taking into account the digital divide and schools have been providing hard copies of activities.

“Those children are being provided learning opportunities, we have not abandoned those children despite the narrative that some newspapers are trying to push.”