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School Closures Part 2

So here we are again — the national closure of schools part 2, in an effort to stem the tide of Covid 19 which is currently circulating on steroids thanks to the new variant. One of the first things to pop up on my Facebook feed was a statement from the Clifton Hall School, a private school in Edinburgh. Here it is in all its glory:-

It has gathered a lot of support and its utterly infuriating as it fails to consider anything but the immediate issue of child education. However, before I address this, I want to flag what I agree with — the mental health impact of lockdown and failure to be at school will be considerable. We absolutely need to ensure that our governments make that the priority as soon as they have dealt with the more immediate threat of a deadly virus and the health service being at breaking point. No one who supports this lockdown is doing so on the basis that they don’t care what happens to our children. We absolutely do, I just want to ensure there is a world of healthy adults out there to care for these children when this is all over.

So lets start with this quote:-

“Makes me wonder why we couldn’t tackle other issues globally and so ferociously in terms of spend. What about the Climate Emergency? The obesity pandemic? The fact that in 2021 we still have people living on the street

Well on this we agree — I also wonder why the same effort and determination (and magic money tree) can’t be put into the other things mentioned but that doesn’t mean we should tell the governments to cease this action to match the inaction on other issues. The easy answer is this is currently a raging inferno that demands attention. You can be certain the government will (much like now) take action far too late when the climate emergency starts impacting the economic bottom line. We all know that is too late but the big fossil fuel industry are hard to ignore when they fund your campaigns. The obesity pandemic is different as (a) you can’t inadvertently ‘catch’ obesity and (b) the government/ultra rich can ignore this by paying for their own healthcare and therefore its someone else’s problem. Lastly, living on the streets is indeed terrible and always has been but while we have vast numbers of people (a) voting Tory and (b) avoiding paying decent taxes (*cough* charitable status of private schools *cough*) then this will continue.

So I don’t think agreeing on all that means that the next step is to say the lockdown shouldn’t be done. Its whatabout-ery of the highest level.

So the next big quote contains my favourite ‘whatabout-ery’:-

What about the 1500 people that die every day in the UK from the big three: heart disease, strokes and cancer-related illnesses. Why haven’t we taken these issues as seriously as we have a virus which is likely to end up with a mortality rate of well below 1%, and which, according to the Office for National Statistics has an average age of death in the UK of 83. Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, men have a life expectancy of 71.”

I mean if you are paying thousands to send your child to a school where the headmaster doesn’t know the difference between diseases you develop and diseases you catch then more fool you. Also if you are ignorant to the fact that a NHS that is rammed full of thousands of people on ventilators with Covid (which they don’t normally have), might then struggle to then deal with those 1000s of people with heart disease, stroke and cancer then how on earth are you a headteacher at a private school? Its either ignorance or wilful blindness and I am not sure what is worse.

In addition the obsession with death statistics is completely ignoring the very real impact of those currently suffering with long Covid together with the unknown aspect of what all the damage done by those who have had it, even if not seriously. There are a number of studies now which point out that lung damage has been seen even in those who suffered only mildly from the disease. Also spare a thought for the poor family members who are 83 and over — still enjoying life Beryl? Sorry but off you go, you had it better than a man in Glasgow so time’s up for the sake of all our children.

Now we move on to something I am more in agreement with (but heavy caveats):-

“I am seeing children being diagnosed with clinical depression, increasing rates of self-harm (even in Scotland, where we already had the highest rate of self-harm in 15-year-old girls anywhere in the world, bar one), suicidal ideation and, something I haven’t seen for at least 20 years, a resurgence of eating disorders. Add to this, those students who are displaying worrying levels of stress and anxiety; the same students that describe online learning as stress inducing. Anyone that has been involved in a Zoom meeting knows how stressful it can be and yet the great solution to our educational recovery is online learning. Well, I’m an educator and I think, at best, it’s a horribly poor substitute for in-school learning.”

Firstly, if he is only now seeing a resurgence in eating disorders then I would suggest he hasn’t been looking as I have seen nothing on any eating disorder website that would suggest rates have been falling. However I don’t doubt he is seeing those mental health impacts and ensuring there is sufficient mental health support and care in the aftermath of this pandemic will be absolutely key but that needs (a) healthy adults to deliver and (b) investment. It does not mean we should plough on and leave schools open so that instead of dealing with online learning, children are having to deal with the loss of loved ones or become carers to family members (impacted by debilitating after-effects of having Covid) while wondering if they were the ones who brought the disease into the house that had such a devastating impact. Not to mention that you could have teachers equally impacted by death or illness or the death and illness of those they care for. How effective will that teacher be in the future having to process all of that?? It is absolutely right to highlight the support children will require both during and after this lockdown but don’t ignore the very real mental health impact of seeing thousands more people needlessly die to ensure classes continue face to face.

There is absolutely the real need for us all to assess what expectations we should have and what solutions need to be in place for the future (is there a need to just have everyone repeat a year and find a solution for those due to start?) but that is a separate conversation to what is best for the population as a whole right now.

Now on to the final parts:-

“To me, it’s actually just as worrying though to suggest that kids don’t really matter that much if they are not dying.

Well yes, the need to prevent thousands of needless deaths and chronic illness is currently more important than potentially 3 months or so of a child’s 13 year education.

“At the moment, there seems to be no alternative voice; no political party willing to stand up for children’s plight, no media criticism; merely, more nodding in agreement that lockdown is the only solution. Well, just remember in our attempts to suppress a virus and ‘to save the NHS’ that the price we pay is the downward spiral in the mental well-being of our children and a legacy of under-achievement as a result.”

Surprisingly he doesn’t seem to be a Daily Telegraph or Daily Mail reader as otherwise I would suggest that there has been plenty of unhinged criticism under the pretence of standing up for the poor children by people who will happily continue to vote for a party that has never previously given a shit and will continue to pay minimal taxes in order to have 20 houses. Oddly the fact that this was already the future for many children in the UK before this virus took hold didn’t seem to have him screaming for reform, only when it hit *his* privately educated children was it a concern. Its telling he refers to ‘legacy of under-achievement’ as that is entirely within our hands and as long as we amend our expectations as noted above and don’t try to apply previous standards to this situation then there is no reason a child should under-achieve. Its called life-long learning for a reason — lets adapt our expectations and stop trying to cram our children into bog-standard exam timetables.

“Children need to be with their friends. They need to play. They need to develop their social and academic skills. How dare we have created an environment where a 5-year-old can say, ‘I can’t play with Freddy because he’s not part of my bubble’. It is the stuff of nonsense and it is our children who will end up being this lockdown’s ‘collateral damage’.

Children need their family to be healthy and while I am sure most of his kids will have that, those 1 in 3 currently in poverty and attending state school are much more likely to pass on the disease to a relative not able to survive. Do you know want environment I want for my children? One where they realise that sometimes you need to take collective action as a whole to help others in a less fortunate position that yourself. That maybe for once *your* needs can’t be the priority, but we won’t forget about them and they will be met, but in the meantime play in your bubble and let’s try to have fun and remember that, incredibly, a vaccine is here and its not for forever.

“Schools need to be OPEN and they need to open NOW.”

Nope, schools need to be ONLINE for a bit longer in order to save thousands of lives which can then help build the world back in a better way to address all those other issues that have been ignored up to now.