Sunday, March 7

Lack of honesty about school closings in England has eroded what little trust remained | Schools

SSchools are not a battlefield between parents and teachers, or between unions and politicians. Teachers don’t prefer distance learning; They are more aware than anyone of The damage school closures cause. Overwhelmingly, everyone wants to have children in school, while everyone, looking at The UK’s Covid curve, which is now nearly vertical, can see that They must stay home. It is this kind of maturity, being able to see that The outcome you prefer is not possible within The reality of your situation, that makes The general population so inconvenient for political discourse that it slips between boastfulness and false binaries. The government denies this and continues to treat its citizens in England like children.

What concerns parents is not homeschooling per se, but its openness. The Secretary of Education has announced that around January 18 will be The date that schools in England that are closed will reopen; everyone knows that it is not so. It is impossible to control The number of infections in two weeks and measures cannot be relaxed until that happens. The prime minister, for his part, keeps it vague and promises changes “as soon as possible.” It could mean anything and functionally it means nothing.

This is important due to our experience with The last crash. If someone had said, on March 18, that schools in England would probably remain closed (aside from vulnerable children and those with caregivers who are key workers) for The remainder of The school year, There are things most of us would have done. Differently. At The family level, we could have had a boost in structuring The day, we could have identified gaps in The provision of learning and communicated Them to The school, we could have met with oTher parents for group learning online, we could have thought creatively about long-term projects; crucially, we wouldn’t have been so clueless in front of our own children. Instead, we exist in this waiting room of ignorance, we were always told to wait for The resumption of normality within The next two weeks, until They stopped being counted.

We would certainly have done more, if we had known The length of The break, for The entire school community: we raise money for families without laptops, Wi-Fi or food, we check each oTher out. This is The job that Pas were born to do, and yet in The fog created by false promises and government incompetence (Their laptop scheme in England is a particularly ignominious example), all of this was left up to The schools, which drip-fed information about a -to-know-a-month ago. The Oak National Academy was commissioned to produce online lessons that parents with pay-as-you-go phone contracts couldn’t afford to download The data. I spoke to a teacher at a high school who, in June, had to ask The police to check on students who had not turned up in three months.

Gavin Williamson may have found it more convenient to be kept in The dark; It meant that we did not organize, we did not launch campaigns, we did not make demands; maybe you saved some money here and There. The licensing scheme was not extended to cover those who were unable to work due to childcare until November. Marcus Rochford had to mobilize around The fact that, without school meals, many children did not get enough to eat. The only way that man could have been more expensive to The government is if They had given him a PPE contract, and I bet he, without wishing to sanctify it, would have delivered some real PPE.

It is a false economy and a catastrophic mistake to exclude civil society from knowledge and decision-making; undermines trust, compromising compliance. It squanders The collective efforts that people were ready and willing to make.

A scant justification would be that The government did not know for itself how long The school closures would take, that it was as frustrated as any of us by an ever-changing landscape. This is implausible; As hapless as The ministers may seem, They still have a civil service, which continues to plan seriously for The medium term, even in The clutches of a fundamentally non-serious government. In October, it was well-known that The rule of six (remember that?) Would be necessary until March; Yet we had to endure These pointless press conferences, in which confused ministers stood on The podium, promising a traffic jam The day after tomorrow, perhaps, waiting for The numbers to tell Their own grim story.

Parents and teachers have largely taken up The matter; The education unions are calling for schools to be closed across England, not just in London and some parts of south-east England; individual schools are taking online teaching even when They have not been instructed to do so; many parents are assuming that The closings will last at least until after The February semester. Life without a horizon is dark and aimless, so we built our own, but it comes at a cost: our faith in authority, which was already weak enough.

• Zoe Williams is a columnist for The Guardian

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