So, it’s been near enough four months since my last post, and while I’m still finding reasons to be cheerful, I’m not beating Covid-19 with optimism. It seems none of us are – certainly not the us in the UK.
This isn’t going to be a rant about how rubbish our government are. Well it might be a little bit. The main part of this post is a copy of an email that I’ve sent to my (Conservative) MP; the third one I’ve sent – he hasn’t answered the other two!
There are a number of reasons why I haven’t posted anything for months, and most of them are really good, as in happy reasons: I’ve been busy with my granddaughter – always a pleasure, sometimes a pain; I’ve been busy with school work – nearly always a pleasure, sometimes a pain; I’ve been doing lots of reading – pure, pure pleasure; I’ve been writing my novel – pleasure and pain in equal measures. And in between all of that I’ve been WhatsApping friends and family. So it’s been pretty good.
I have also during this time experienced personal losses to Covid, and a fair amount of fear, exasperation, and horror. But I’ll let the text of my email to my MP speak for some of that.
Dear Mr Jupp,
This is the third email that I have sent you regarding the government’s handling of the coronavirus situation and my concerns regarding the specific impact in schools. I sent the first email in May and to date, I have not received a reply. As I sent the previous two emails from my school email address, I have decided to send this from my private email address in the hope that I receive a reply.
I am one of your constituents; I also teach in a school in your constituency. I write to you as a concerned teacher, grandparent and as a citizen of this country. I want you to put a very serious question to the Prime Minister in Prime Minister’s Questions on my behalf: why has there not been more specific planning for the safe return of pupils to schools in September? Or if you prefer, you could word it like this: how can my constituents who teach or have children in school, feel safe when the schools re-open in September given what we already know about Covid-19?
Children have to return to their education. That is not in question. But it has to be done as safely as possible. And at the moment it seems that we are being asked to return on a wing and a prayer. In order for our children to return to school safely, time, effort, money and proper strategic planning needs to be put in place. It seems that all of this is just too much of a faff for our government.
When I return to school in September, I will see over 150 students in one week, in an enclosed classroom, with no PPE. As I teach Years 7 up to 13, that means that in reality my contact will be much wider than that. Our children are going to be kept in Year group ‘bubbles’ as far as we are able to do that given the constraints of school buildings and the timings of the day. So, the children in each year group class that I teach will have been in different groupings in other subjects, meaning that I will in reality be exposed to far more than 150 children.
We are now being told that older teenagers transmit Covid-19 at the same level as adults. We also know that they are often asymptomatic if they do contract the virus. As there will be no weekly testing, we cannot possibly know how many children currently have the virus. However, what we do know is that young people are now getting together in larger numbers and are often not observing social distancing.
I am very rightly required to wear a mask to go shopping in a supermarket both for my own safety and for the safety of others. And yet the danger to me in a supermarket will be minimal compared to the situation within a school once all of the staff and students return.
Can you understand my anxiety? I am fifty-five and I do not have any underlying health conditions. But younger healthier people than I have died of this terrible disease. And the numbers of students that teachers are going to be exposed to in an enclosed space could lead to exposure to multiple students with the virus. This we know would increase the danger of the virus itself.
And if we look at the wider picture, every child who becomes infected will potentially be spreading that virus to their own families and on into the wider community. How are the government going to protect the NHS, the elderly, the vulnerable, and the community as a whole in the face of their gung ho approach to one of the most important issues in our society?
Please, please ask the Prime Minister what will happen if we have a wave of the virus sweeping through a school. Is he prepared to accept responsibility for the lives lost? We are already looking at the terrible tragedy of tens of thousands of deaths in this country. Is the government prepared to add more deaths to that figure for the want of forward planning? We need extra buildings, volunteers, a wider and more far-reaching strategy similar to the one that built the Nightingale hospitals to allow schools to continue to operate as safely as possible for the children and the people of this country.
I wonder, would you be happy to walk into a classroom full of teenagers day after day with the chance of this invisible killer lurking hidden from view? Would you be happy for a relative of yours to be put in this position? I’d
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that students have to return to school. What I am stuck on is the fact that there is nothing at all in place to help them to do that safely.
I look forward to your response. Please do respond to this email. Don’t leave it unanswered as my previous emails have been.