I want to caveat this with two things: firstly, this isn’t a judgement on people who a.) are choosing to send their kids or b.) don’t have any other option – far far from it. Every time I comment on instagram or anywhere, there will be someone who takes it upon themselves to tell me how inconsiderate and awful I am – those who see it as their righteous calling to hold strangers on the internet accountable for their every word, but fail to extend the same accountability to the people in power – so, if you fall into the group of people who are choosing differently to me or you simply don’t have a choice, this isn’t a judgement of you or a dismissal of your situation it’s purely relevant to us. Also, if you don’t agree with me that is *fine*. Secondly, the school return in June isn’t 100% confirmed. I know this. I read and listen to politics, so please, don’t feel the need to inform me with a snippy comment or email. We have made the decision based on the assumption R will stay down and the government will stick with it’s plan.
Are we on the same page? Super duper.
Ok, so why aren’t we sending the kids back in June/July, as is the proposed plan by the government?
Well, under the current proposed plans, Edith would be due to return to school if R stays under 1. In England, R is estimated to be between 0.5 and 0.9 (nothing like jumping to it the second it slides *just* under 1 at that 0.9 eh?) but in the North East, when the proposal was put out, R was at around 0.9. The statistical probability of it staying under 1 when we have loosened lockdown measures as of today, we can’t walk our dogs without seeing kids and families meeting up and we’re already teetering so close to 1 is, in my opinion, about as likely as Donald Trump apologising for his racism towards China – it could happen, but we know it won’t.
Even if we, as a region, slide over 1, England might not and so of course we will continue onward with the proposal despite the huge risk in health.
Aside from this, Edith’s return would be pretty difficult to explain to our boys when they aren’t able to return with her. Edith is in reception, and the boys are year 2 and 4. What do we say? “We know you love school and miss your friends Toby, but it’s not safe for you yet”, “but mummy, why can Edith go?” “Well darling, Boris says some ambiguous scientific research – that the government fails to credit or release – says that she can go back because… well actually we don’t know, someone has to go first and she just so happens to fall into reception. Sure, she licks other people sometimes and I’ve had to ask her not to put a stick in her mouth on our daily walks, but the government reckon she can social distance first.” We could try and sell them the same line the government are trying to sell us about how reception, year 1 and year 6 are in need of going back because they are at critical periods and they need to be in a classroom setting… but they are pretty clever to be honest and they won’t buy it anymore than I will. I would need to explain to the kids that Edith is going first, and then in a month they will be expected to return, so that they can have… one month of schooling before the plan to “use schools to restart the economy” is put into disarray by the summer holidays. Hmm. It doesn’t make sense to me and it won’t to them.
Beyond the utterly bizarre way that these year groups have been chosen, we are the only one of the nations that has chosen to return to school, with first ministers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales expressing dismay at the rush to reopen. In fact, the Government seem to be dismissing their counterparts, the teacher’s unions, teachers and concerns by parents associations left, right and centre. Everyone seems to be urging against this move, everyone actually working in schools or with experience working with children, seems to be telling us that this is reckless and won’t work. Let’s have a think about the numbers as well – schools are to return with classes no bigger than 15 right? Excellent. So take the average class and you will need to split it in two, one in one room with a TA, one in another with the teacher. Then in order to get those students to sit 2 meters apart, you will only be able to have a maximum of 10 pupils in each room, possibly 8. You will then need to ensure that they stay apart. It simply doesn’t work. How many schools do you know that have extra classrooms, and how many 4-5 year olds do you know that would be able to understand staying apart, no matter how advanced they are? It’s pretty impossible to get most adults to understand at the supermarket so a 5 year old? Ok then.
Within my own community I have heard stories of children falling but rather than hand holding and a cuddle, teaching staff have been told to hand them a cold compress (paper towels, we all know that is what it is but let’s stay fancy and call it a cold compress) and ask them to administer their own first aid. One woman wrote to me and told me she’d had her cousin on the phone who was incredibly distressed because, under their new guidelines, a child in her care soiled herself and was given a plastic bag and change of clothes, then left to sort herself out from a distance. Do we know that these things are 100% accurate accounts? No. They are probable though, and they are heart breaking, not just for students who want to run up to their teacher and give them a hug, but also for the teacher’s/staff themselves who work endlessly (and if there is anything I have learnt whilst trying to homeschool, it’s that it is pretty endless) but are being asked to provide the best care they can in an impossible way.
Since I’ve mentioned them, let’s talk about the teachers and staff. When did they become sacrificial? Whilst we’ve been staying home to stay safe, save lives and protect the NHS, clapping our way through Thursday nights with a big smile and a beverage, teachers have been the forgotten workers, slogging away and caring – as they always have – for key worker’s kids. Teachers have been given a footnote in the coronavirus saga, expected to fulfil a role that they get little thanks for without PPE, without danger pay and without any bloody clapping. Teachers are still in school, still working and in addition expected to help us homeschool our children via zoom or providing work for us to do as best we can – all whilst being added to the end of Bojo’s speech like piece of fruit you forgot to add to the shopping list “Oh yes, and the teachers”. To fulfil a role that puts you into the closest of quarters with young children and teens who are potential carriers of the virus in order to support society is massive to me, and we thank them by flooding our schools with more children when they have told us it isn’t going to work. I’m so angry for them, I want to protect them as best I can, and for me, that is not sending our children back.
As if that wasn’t enough, we then have to consider our key workers and their children, who they haven’t been given to option to keep home. Key workers are expected to be at work, or lose their jobs, regardless of their circumstances and they are sending their children to school at potential risk, shielding them where they can. Why increase that risk to them, to their children, with MORE children, less distancing and fewer restrictions? After everything they have done for us, it’s a smack in the face. They do not have a choice, so if we do, why rush?
I am not naive and I realise that being able to make this choice is a privilege, we are self employed and work from home, and whilst it’s incredibly hard to work and homeschool, it’s doable. It is because I am keenly aware of that privilege that I feel so passionate that schools shouldn’t return, forcing people back to work and children into contact to spread the virus. Ultimately schools are not child care providers. This is not a black and white issue, it’s easy to sit here and think only about my own children, when there are children for whom school is a safe place, but there are other provisions in place for these children, free meals are offered and those at risk can attend school alongside key worker’s children. We keep referring to coronavirus as indiscriminate, but it’s far from it and make no mistake that this move to reopen schools is going to affect the poorest in society and the “low skilled” workers as Boris insultingly put it. As I said, this is far from black and white and the sad reality of coronavirus is that it’s lose lose, whichever way we turn there are losses and there are faults. As the furlough scheme has been extended, I feel school closures should be also. If one parent or carer is home, no matter how hard it is, it will be safer for all concerned.
There you have it. That’s why we won’t be sending our children back on the 1st June.