SSince time immemorial, conservatives have waged culture wars against teachers, from their attacks on homosexuals, section 28 days to Michael Gove’s attacks on “the stain.” This week, Gavin Williamson has been forced to withdraw from his recent flashy ban on schools using material from groups with “a desire to end capitalism”, likening it to “endorsing illegal activity” (such as domestic market law?). Anti-racism, environmental and other activists threatened a court case, so now “the wording of the guide is being revised.”
Throughout the pandemic, schools have been under attack, as the teachers’ scapegoat government acts as a distraction from the Covid failures in Britain. Boris Johnson tried unsuccessfully to goad Keir Starmer into the prime minister’s questions yesterday when Starmer raised justified concerns from teachers. This week, Greenwich and Islington councils canceled plans to close their schools a few days earlier, faced with infections that skyrocketed in their districts due to the threat of legal action from Williamson.
What an empty gesture, when today the same number 10 announced that only in January would there be “staggered” returns to secondary schools. Of course, schools should be the last to close, for the sake of working children and parents, but the move bypassed decision-making by the school and local authorities.
The decision comes after Williamson dropped another surprise without consulting the schools. the idea It is to prevent all students and teachers in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid from isolating themselves; instead, those without symptoms will be evaluated at school every day for seven days after being identified as a close contact. Great, if that prevents missed school days for those who never developed the virus, but reveals their determined ignorance of how schools are struggling.
“This needs a mobile unit that gets to the playground, with people managing the tests and the records,” says Robin Bevan, principal at Southend High School for Boys in Essex. He estimates that such logistics would require 100,000 evaluators to cover all schools and universities. But that help will not come: schools will have to do it themselves. They receive a 15 minute training video, PPE, and lateral flow tests that produce a response in 30 minutes. Where is the extra space needed to install isolated bays? Bevan has already purchased two tents for additional distance purposes, but now the tent business has sold out. Where are the resources for additional staff members to run five-minute test slots (allowing for cleanup)? And every child tested will need an administratively cumbersome parental permission.
There’s no money with these tests: Bevan estimates that the cheapest additional staff would cost £ 7,500 a week. It already has a deficit of £ 250,000, down 20% from 2010; the national average cut is 8%. Covid has cost £ 60,000 due to lost income from renting school buildings and open windows, adding a third to heating costs.
Neither parents nor ministers see what schools are doing behind the scenes to stay open. When any case of Covid is identified, everyone with whom they shared a class during the previous two days should be contacted. This involves checking schedules and records, and each case takes three staff members two hours to make that contact with the parents.
In the first lockdown, Bevan’s school delivered 50,000 virtual lessons and only a few parents complained about a lack of personal contact with teachers. Some made unfair comparisons with private schools that taught a full schedule of lessons, despite having smaller classes and three times more money per child. “They forget, in a secondary school, a math teacher has 250 students, the humanities teach 350, physical education, art and DT around 500”. It has 24 employees and about 500 self-isolating students today, so teaching both online and in person is double what some teachers do.
That’s why staff arrive long before school and stay long after: they keep records, alert families, and most importantly, says this principal, spend time monitoring the large number of students they are concerned about. Bevan has maxed out his school’s student premiums on laptops for every student without one, as the government hasn’t provided the ones it promised. A Knowsley school that was promised 1,065 received just 282.
If anyone thinks teachers don’t care, hear Bevan say she’s “on the verge of tears” when she has to go tell a class that they need to go home for two weeks because of a Covid case. “The kids are so upset about leaving.” The attacks on government teachers, repeated by the right-wing press, are part an instinctive cultural dislike and part a disguise for education cuts. Here is a Columnist of the sun This week: “Is there a profession in the country that has had an easier and stress-free nine months than the teaching profession?”
The public disagrees. Ipsos Mori veracity index find that people rank teachers as the fourth most trusted place to tell the truth about 25 professions, after nurses, doctors and dentists. Journalists are fourth from last, politicians last.
Teachers have provided front-line work every day during this pandemic, but their salary is frozen. Experienced teachers have lost 15% in real terms since 2010, says his union. Britain has always underestimated education and has always paid the price for doing so. “Teachers shouldn’t be heroes,” says Bevan. “You only need heroes in an emergency.”
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.