This week schools reopen in England and the message to worried parents is children must attend school or you will be fined.
Bullying and force is of course the Tory tactic to make concerned parents send their children back to school. Teaching unions have been speaking out against the government advice and demanding that a number of tests are passed in order for the safe full reopening of schools. However, the government has not taken on the responsibility of making sure that schools are safe, forcing NEU to send checklists to union members as an alternative way to inform how to keep schools safer.
The National Education Union (NEU), ‘wanted the government to plan for alternatives to full opening – in the event of a second wave or local lockdowns and they wanted the government to accept that some of it’s recommended measures do not go far enough.’
Is a return to normality worth the risk?
This rush to ‘return to normal’ is putting the lives of parents, grandparents, teachers, school staff and in some rare cases children, at risk.
Whilst the risk from Covid-19 is the main reason that parents and teachers find themselves anxious about schools fully reopening, no one is talking about the mental health repercussions of how young children will cope with so many social distancing rule changes within schools.
Where does the opposition stand?
The leader of the opposition is once again backing the government line that children must return to school. In a recent statement he said “Labour want and expect children to be back at school. Every day that schools were closed was a day of opportunity, learning and support lost.”
I struggle to find any consolation in this statement. Kier Starmer is a well-educated man and surely, he can see the benefits of thinking outside the box and finding alternative ways to educate our children.
Both Boris Johnson and Kier Starmer insist that schools are safe whilst they stand in a barren house of commons, having rearranged their conferences to be online this year because… It is unsafe… so how is it possible that schools are safe spaces?
What should parents do?
It is a really confusing time for a lot of parents because of course parents want their children to receive a good education, a healthy social life and some normality to return to their children’s lives. At the same time they would rather have healthy children and not put themselves at risk of catching a potentially fatal virus because they have sent their children into packed out classrooms of 30+ children a day.
Especially when we are also told we can only meet other households in our garden and we must all keep two-meters distance from each other.
Didn’t anyone think of alternatives?
Surely when the pandemic hit in March and schools closed, someone within government thought about alternative educational plans?
It seems not.
It would make too much sense to keep schools open for key worker children but keep the number of students in classes to a minimum whilst we wait for a vaccine or effective medication to be discovered. Meanwhile, the children who have parents at home or who are old enough to stay home alone could be provided with an online alternative.
Zoom classes are entirely possible with children still able to see their friends and familiar teachers from school. In fact, whilst teachers taught key worker children, it could have been live streamed to the homes of the other children.
We live in extremely volatile and dystopian times but we also live in a technologically advanced period where with the touch of a button we can do almost anything we can dream of.
Many of the MPs in government have had the best education money can buy but they can’t seem to come up with ideas or solutions to the many problems facing us during this international crisis and apart from the teaching unions, no one else seems to be supporting or tackling the concerns of worried parents.
Schools never closed!
Schools didn’t close during lockdown, they supported and taught the children of key workers and with the support of government and a little broader thinking they could have still effectively educated and supported the millions of children that were learning at home. They still can.
How has Covid-19 affected other schools reopening fully in the UK?
Scotland, Wales and Northern Irelands children went back to school three-weeks ago. By the 29th August, 53 schools had had positive Covid-19 tests, 106 pupils and teachers infected and 19,000 pupils in quarantine. That was within two weeks… In England we are still fully reopening schools despite having a worse time with infections.
Why aren’t lessons being learned?
It is appalling that lessons are not being learnt, the government are pushing through their plans without sound reasoning or scrutiny and parents are left with the choice of face a fine, register their children for home schooling and risk losing their children’s places at school or play Russian Roulette with a contagious virus in buildings packed with hundreds of children and staff.
Parents and teachers have been abandoned by this government and also by the opposition who should be telling the government how they can do things better, not clapping along like seals and watching on the side-lines as the country crashes and burns.
Who has our back?
All parents can do for now is do what they think is best for themselves and their children. Personally, I will be removing my children from school and teaching them from home as best as I can. All while remembering who had our back during this crisis. It wasn’t politicians or governments, it was the trade unions.
Time and time again during this crisis they have been fighting for the safety and rights of people and they have often been the only ones with our back. Join a union, make them stronger and in doing so make us all stronger.