The Conservatives’ dangerous lack of Covid measures is setting schools up for failure
Children across the UK are beginning to return to school this week after the summer holidays.
But sadly, the threat of Covid-19 spreading and mutating within our communities is still high.
It just seems absurd that the Government is sending our kids into a potential coronavirus crisis – it feels like they are ignoring all of the advice they and the scientists have been drilling into people over the last two years.
Last week I was shocked to read that the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, suggested that parents have a responsibility to make sure that their children are tested regularly.
Parents have a role to play, but it’s the Tory government in charge of guidelines and funding, so in my view, it’s a shameful attempt to distract from this Government’s endless, continuous failings.
Testing children is important. I have called for extensive testing from the beginning of the pandemic, including on asymptomatic people. But it’s not enough on its own: the Government must do more.
The strategy must be more sustainable; the Conservatives should focus on preventing children from getting sick in the first place.
I believe there are three things the education secretary could do to build back better from this pandemic, things that frankly should have been put in place already.
Firstly, we must have better ventilation in schools. The Government only recently promised to roll out CO2 monitors this month but I think air purifiers and ventilation units should have been set up over the summer in every single school.
Secondly, schools need financial support to mitigate the spread of Covid. Head teachers in schools know what they need, like ventilation, PPE, extra teachers and additional resources. There is no need to contract out the needs of schools to make profit.
Put the teachers in control. It’s a good investment to ensure that transmission is limited in the first place. And no one is more committed to that cause than the teachers and parents themselves.
And finally, the Government could implement permanent smaller class sizes, which would not only limit exposure to the virus, and therefore help prevent deadly mutations, but reduce isolations, too.
If there were smaller class sizes, PPE and ventilation, I am confident the majority of parents would not have a problem sending their kids to school
It is also better for children’s education in the long-term. Lockdown kids need more support than ever before, this is how we combat Covid-19 and the long-term damage of a broken education.
Of course it will require investment in teachers, the country will benefit from more educators to positively guide our children’s futures. And logically it will help to ensure that absences are covered, smaller classes are possible, and that progress is maintained.
There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our nation’s children. It just requires the political will to achieve it.
And yes, there is money in the system: the Government was suggesting large sums of money be spent on things schools don’t need or want, such as hiring ‘attendance advisers’ who will be paid up to £500 a day to work with local authorities on cutting school absence.
This approach, and it is not exhaustive, is vital given that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has just decided against universal Covid-19 vaccines for children aged between 12 and 15.
It is a known fact that we cannot win the war on Covid by punitive and authoritarian measures. We keep people safe by bringing everyone along in the process. And we combat poverty, which has been a driving force in people contracting and sadly subsequently dying from Covid-19, by improving opportunities and education.
If we are to live with the virus, it is this holistic, long-term focus that is needed, much more than just testing, vaccinations and punishing parents by fining them if their kids are not in school.
If there were smaller class sizes, PPE and ventilation I am confident the majority of parents would not have a problem sending their kids to school.
According to a Freedom of Information by education journalist Warwick Mansell, The Department for Education said ‘Public interest’ means government advice on mask-wearing in schools must be kept secret. How convenient.
Parents have the right to know why the Government are doing what they are doing. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous, outrageous and also, quite frankly, rude.
The Government need to stop treating people like mushrooms – keeping them in the dark and feeding them crap all the time.
Our fantastic students across the country and hard-working teachers don’t deserve yet another difficult autumn and beyond
The current policy ensures there will be no forced mask wearing, no contact tracing, no bubbles, and that the clinically vulnerable should follow the same rules as everyone else.
Scientific data has suggested wearing masks in schools could cut Covid-19 transmission by as much as eight times and social distancing is still one of the government’s recommendations. Like mask wearing – so why say in schools it is no longer required?
Given that as many as one in seven children with coronavirus could develop long Covid, and the clinically vulnerable could die if they catch Covid-19 this policy is dangerous and irresponsible.
For over a year, we have been told how to keep safe and these precautions have become a way of life for some. But in schools, we are expecting staff and pupils to abandon these measures completely? It makes no sense.
Boris Johnson and co have launched a trial of air filters and purifiers in 30 schools in Bradford. But we don’t need a trial – it has been almost two years! We already know that proper ventilation will help to reduce transmission. Our country’s leaders just need to get on and do it. Ventilation is key to limiting the spread of Covid-19.
I can’t help but wonder if they are waiting for one of their donors to open up a company before they issue the contracts.
Sadly, I have no faith in this education secretary, who has bumbled his way from crisis to crisis, falling out with unions, alienating teachers and failing students.
In the coming weeks, if measures are not taken and Covid cases spike as a result, it will come as no surprise to anyone but the people in charge.
Our fantastic students across the country and hard-working teachers don’t deserve yet another difficult autumn and beyond, but I’m afraid to say I think this Government is setting them up for failure.
The Tories have proven time and time again that they are corrupt and lack the moral aptitude to run the country fairly, and as I have said before.
This Government needs to change course now, before they are responsible for more avoidable Covid deaths.
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