So the UK government want children to return to schools. They cite educational reasons and worries about disadvantaged children getting left behind and a gap widening. I am sure there are educational reasons for this policy but I will explain why it simply isn’t a good idea for Primary Schools morally or practically. There are all sorts of reasons why schools should open or stay closed, this blog post is about social and academic reasons and the truths of how schools work. If for you it’s all about free childcare, stop reading now.
As far as the social side goes, the main problem is that the government don’t seem to understand the reality concerning how schools work. They seem to have this rather romantic idea that schools are full of children who will abide by rules and diligent parents and teachers who will enforce them. One of the government advisors suggested yesterday that kids won’t share their lunchboxes with one another or don’t chew their pencils. Have they ever met a six-year old child? They suggest that children will be fine with social distancing. They won’t, especially in the UK. It’s a dreadful anti-child, unnatural, amoral policy. Kids need to be back in school when they can have a normal school life without chalk circles, quarantine zones, forced masks, two metre distance rules, assembly bans, football bans, swimming bans, band bans, choir bans, hugging bans, playtime bans and ending up with sore hands from rubbing them red through constant hand-washing. They can’t even play chess unless it is a two metre board. They don’t deserve to be continuously frightened, don’t deserve to see their teachers, cleaning and dinner time staff in scary masks, and they don’t deserve to be continuously reprimanded for doing what all children want to do – play with their friends. The idea that teachers are so mechanistic they will implement all these measures shows what a stupid policy this is. The majority of us are kind people who like working with children – that’s why we became teachers. So either the policies will be enacted and we will be responsible for installing an anti-child environment or it won’t be enacted, which will make it a farce. Schools are some of the last places where social distancing can possibly work. Perhaps boxing might be worse but even this only affects a few people rather than hundreds of unhygienic, grubby fingered darlings who eat dirt, flick snot and are fascinated with poo.
As far as academics goes, the idea that children can catch up on academic work in eight weeks after being off for eight is barmy. Teachers will take about two weeks to work out where all the gaps are and what has been forgotten. They will be teaching new things and then realise, oh crap they don’t know this after all and then go back to basics. We will get them back to about what they were doing just before Easter and then it will be the summer holidays, when they will forget half the stuff as usual. I am not saying they will learn nothing at school. I am saying children will learn at school or at home but the idea they are all on track is nonsense. There are going to be so many factors preventing kids from learning with all these social distancing measures. Kids who don’t feel secure in school do not learn. We have known this for decades. And if you think this environment will be good for learning, think again. Whatever happens, I bet that most schools will be filling in gaps for a long time to come. Any decent school will stop and take a few steps back rather than ploughing down a path where children vaguely know what they are doing in the hope it will all sort itself out. What the government need to be doing is getting remote schooling to work – this is their chance. Oak Academy is doing some fantastic work. Class Dojo is super for submitting work. There is a role for Zoom but trying to make it replicate a normal class environment isn’t it. They have eight weeks to actually train the workforce to become properly computer literate on the job – they will probably never get that chance again. We can train teachers to use video learning properly and introduce some to excellent online resources. Long term everyone will win. But in the rush to try to get kids to as normal an experience of schooling, all they will do is miss this opportunity and we will still have to go back to the drawing board in September.
We don’t know if kids spread the disease. We don’t know if the lack of antibodies in their system is because they are immune or asymptomatic. We don’t know if sending them to school will cause many parents and grandparents to become sick and possibly die. And we don’t really know if many of the children themselves want to go back to school in these circumstances with these anti-child policies. Adults have a choice to quit their jobs but as usual we don’t give kids this choice themselves – whatever their feelings. In the meantime, political parties are arguing, devolved governments are arguing, trade unions are arguing, newspapers are arguing, everyone on Twitter is arguing (some things never change) and the reality is that it won’t make the slightest bit of difference; as when September arrives what I do know is we will end up going back and picking up the pieces. But hopefully in September, these children will be able to learn, hug each other and walk hand in hand.