Whip

The sun almost shines down on a Monday morning. So the schools are now open again.

A real media blitz is underway telling parents just how safe things are and also reminding them of the fines that can be given out for keeping children off school. The Education Secretary is talking about change. Changes he thinks are necessary. Ways to extend the school day so children learn more. Changes to the school year drastically cutting back on school holidays. Finding ways to get pupils to keep studying during weekends and those reduced holidays. Changes he thinks are long overdue.

Strangely no mention of changes to make schools better places to learn and have fun. No mention of changes to the Government’s dogmatic national curriculum. No mention of investment in home schooling. No mention of changes to the funding cuts the Government has made to child mental health services. No mention of more input from pupils, teachers and parents in shaping a better future. The only change required is clearly to make children work longer.

But what do we expect from a politician who is supposed to be in charge or our schooling system and who makes a point of having a horse whip on the front of his desk. Photo from The Guardian

Back this week!

So much space…..

So all the schools are back this week. With some changes. A bit more of an encouragement to wear masks. All pupils to get a couple of rapid Covid tests per week. A test which gives inaccurate results in potentially 1 out of every 5 tests. But let’s not mention the giant elephant in the rather cramped classroom.

Most children and staff will be returning to classrooms in a country with rapidly emerging virus mutations without mandatory masks, in rooms likely to have really poor ventilation, with pupils definitely and staff probably without the security of a vaccination. And here’s the elephant entering the already cramped room. The PM has been doing repeated photo opportunities in classrooms. In carefully selected modern classrooms containing only a handful of children. Lots of space. But that’s not the reality for most schools. Too many are squeezed into small spaces. Nothing has been done to reduce the high classroom numbers. Not one thing. If Hawklad was returning then it would be to a class size which is between 30 to 32 pupils and 2 members of staff. In a building which is well over 50 years old.

Please tell me how this is a good idea.

Sunset

What a lovely sunset.

Last night Hawklad reminded me that this Sunday last year was when we first talked isolating. I remember it quite well. A Sunday evening. I was sorting out the school bags for Monday morning. Hawklad came into the room and asked how did we know that this new virus wasn’t already in school. How did we know the bus was virus free. Should we stay off school until it passes. I tried to reassure him but I could sense his anxiety. I emailed the school to let them know that he was anxious. When he’s anxious it can throw off his ability to sit still and concentrate.

He did get to school the next day but not by school bus. He asked to be driven in. A few days later school proved too much for him and our family lockdown started. Soon the world changed.

It’s odd looking back. Its hard to believe that we have been isolating for nearly a year now. I wouldn’t have dreamed that I could have coped with that much isolation fit that long. A world suddenly constricted to our garden and house.

But we have…….

We can do this.

Weather

It’s horrid weather today so let’s go back a few weeks. That’s better.

I heard someone from the Government brush off a parent talking about her daughters genuine fears and phobias about returning to school. Her daughter doesn’t think her classroom and school is safe enough. From the sound of it her daughter is in a similar place to Hawklad. Really struggling. The interviewer cut off the parent saying that she was in the minority and the vast majority would see things much more positively. The message from the Government followed instantly. People and kids who had concerns and fears needed to listen to the majority. Schools are completely safe, just get on with it. Parents have an obligation to send their children into schools when they open.

Meanwhile back here the NHS Psychologist is just at the early stages of a treatment programme to try and help with Hawklad’s deep seated anxieties. No guarantee that the programme will ever work. This week’s task is for Hawklad to try and stand in the front garden for 1 minute. The message is don’t worry if you can’t do that. Even a few seconds will be a massive leap of faith. And if he can’t do it at all then we can try another week. Pushing people with significant fears and ingrained anxieties can do so much harm to their long term mental health.

The Government and the ‘Majority’ are not trained mental health practitioners. They have absolutely no idea what some people are going through. On this issue they can stand out in the rain and whistle for all I care.

It’s a plan

So the Government has set out the way forward. A roadmap. Starting with all schools opening on the 8th March with parents able to play golf or tennis is socially distanced way as soon as the school buses have left the street. Ending with getting the bunting out just before summer with every adult having been offered at least one shot of vaccine and virtually all restrictions lifted. That’s the plan.

This time they have introduced some gaps between the various stages to check on the impact. It’s an improvement on the first lockdown release. Not great but an improvement on the last shambles.

I’m already hearing people talk about booking summer holidays, binning the masks, going to nightclubs. The message is ‘soon it will be over, we will have won….’.

Sadly I’m not convinced yet….

  • Schools are being fully reopened against the advice of many of the Government’s own scientific advisers. Reopened with no meaningful additional safety measures put in place.
  • No plans to prioritise front line groups like teachers or police for vaccines. Apparently this will just complicate things.
  • No thought given to the Health and Care sectors that have been stretched to breaking point for a year now. They can’t keep functioning like this.
  • No plans for under 18 vaccines at all as schools are ‘perfectly safe’ and the kids can develop herd immunity without getting too sick. Yet no mention of the increasing number of under 18s suffering long covid symptoms. No mention of school outbreaks that are already happening even with 3/4 quarter empty schools. No mention of overcrowded classrooms with no ventilation. No mention of the scores of children going down with associated diseases which have been brought on as a result of a seemingly mild Covid bout. No investment in home schooling resources to take pressure off classrooms and create another avenue for education – just threats of fines for parents.
  • The plans assume that the vaccine is the way out of the crisis. No mention of virus related mutations becoming resistant to the vaccine. A real risk when you have high infection rates and delayed second shot vaccine delivery. The vaccine is good but it’s not 100% effective. Plus we just don’t know how long the protection will last for in individuals.
  • The plan is in tatters if a change in the virus makes current vaccines less effective. In that increasingly like scenario the vaccine programme has to completely reset and start again.
  • No thought on making changes to how we work, study and play to make them safer going forward. We seem to be happy going back to the status quo which so spectacularly failed only a year ago.
  • The plan assumes an acceptable level of Covid infections and casualties. This is not a zero virus plan.
  • No mention of the mental health crisis facing young and old in this country.
  • The Virus will still be here…..

So no I’m not planning for a pandemic free future just yet. I hope we are fortunate and the plan does work. But when do things ever go to Plan.

Let’s be honest

Could I argue that this was a Golden Eagle catching fish over a mountain lined lake. I could but others might have a different view. If we don’t listen then we often get the wrong answer….

I was listening to a member of the Government being interviewed about schools on the BBC. The interviewer listened politely to the answers agreeing with everything that was said. Never asking for the evidence or questioning the view. All very friendly and very smily. Then a scientist was interviewed with a differing view. The interview was very different. The scientist was constantly interrupted, never allowed to answer fully. Often basically accused of being biased. Part of the problem. A very hostile interview.

That’s the problem we are not allowed to have a balanced open discussion anymore. It’s very much you are with us or against us. It’s not just Covid, it’s everything. I heard a leading Government MP say that any Firm that doesn’t support Brexit fully would be penalised.

So where are we with schools. They largely remain shut until the 8th March. Next week our so called Leader will tell us the plan. There seems to be a media blitz telling parents that schools are perfectly safe. Children have to be in schools as no other options exist. Nothing to worry about. The only change needed is to get pupils to wear a mask in a few more shared areas but definitely not in classrooms. Parents will be issued with Covid test kits so they can test their family regularly. The evidence from Europe and here shows that schools don’t spread the pandemic at all. Children are getting infected only in households. Infection rates are falling. More people have been vaccinated. Doubting parents will be subjected to a Advertisement campaign to reassure them. Those still doubting will be warned about fines and penalties to if they fail to send their children back.

That’s one view….

There are other views.

  • Respect individual children views. Some will be keen to return others will not feel safe. It’s a personal judgement about risk.
  • People are being vaccinated but most only with one of the two required shots. This runs the risk of reduced effectiveness and virus resistant mutations.
  • The vaccine varies on how much protection it provides to individuals, how long it is before the protection starts to tail off and how effective it is at stopping people spreading the virus.
  • There are NO plans to vaccinate children. The Government believes they are a key way to develop herd immunity. A strategy which has little expert support.
  • Comparing UK schools with many of the European ones misses a key point. UK classrooms are much more overcrowded with less opportunities for social distancing than European ones.
  • Infection rates are falling but still are higher than under the first wave. The death rate is still daily well over 500 a day. So falling YES but no where near under control.
  • The number of virus mutations being detected are rising rapidly.
  • The virus is now spreading fastest amongst the young and under 18 age groups.
  • Even with a lockdown and with schools only accepting a small number of pupils (essential worker children), Public Health England are still reporting that about 100 schools a week are still encountering pandemic outbreaks.
  • Our Leader only a few weeks ago called schools completely safe and told parents to send their children into school. 8 hours later he was saying schools were Vectors for Transmission and had to be closed. Make your mind up….
  • Children are getting serious long term Covid. They are being hospitalised.
  • Children are being admitted to hospital with associated serious diseases which are linked to an initial mild Covid infection.
  • The quick self administered tests which are going to be used are not particularly accurate or reliable. Only really effective as a guide not a determinate.
  • Many scientists and experts are arguing for caution on school reopenings. For the foreseeable future they are arguing for investment in homeschooling to allow for more classroom space. This would also allow time for schools to implement change to permanently move away from overcrowded learning environments.

Different views but we are only supposed to hear one. Just maybe the best way going forward is to be open with what we know and what we don’t know. Let individual schools work with the local health services, parents and pupils. Develop local solutions that work the local circumstances. Give them the support to make long term changes. Provide an enhanced national home schooling resource pool. Then trust parents and children to make the right call for them. Surely that’s a better route out of this mess.

Worry about it

The thaw has set in. No more snowy sun roses this week, maybe not until next winter.

I wrote a few hours ago about how I was missing the snow when it’s gone. You only really miss those things that are special to you.

There’s a difference between missing something and worrying about something. The disappearing snow is also worrying me a little. During the national lockdown the snow helped create an impression of a really small available world. What we can see and touch is all that is available. We are not missing out on much.

But is the thawing snow a symbol of change?

Some Governments are keen to reopen and relax restrictions. Is that way too soon. Who knows. But the message that it will be soon open for everyone misses the point. It’s not going to be open for everyone. Anxieties and Fears don’t get fixed overnight. The vaccinations won’t have reached many people including the kids. Many will only have had one shot. We have rapidly changing mutations. Some will continue to wear masks others will ditch them.

The works will open for some.

For us the lockdown will continue. In a few months I will have had one of the two vaccine shots. So I will be partly covered but that’s not the point. Hawklad’s fears are actually rising. He knows that I and other vaccinated people can still pass the virus onto him. He knows that he won’t be getting and vaccine protection. He can see that children can get covid and the more severe long covid. He is fully aware of the associated serious disease that is affecting some children. He can knows that some people will drop their guard. Basically his fears are not going away. So our lockdown will continue.

So the disappearing snow kind of symbolises something else. A world is out there. It is opening again but not for us. It’s not a small available world anymore. It’s a big world again but one that we are locked out of. Beyond our reach. That worries me and makes me sad.

Sad to see the snow go.

But then another thought. A better thought. Other people, other families can hopefully start to enjoy these places again. To have adventures. Other young ones can have holidays again. Have more fun. Can be safe doing that. Memories can be born.

Maybe the snow going is a good thing.

Forgetful

Do you get those moments when you realise that you have clearly lost the plot. I’ve been telling Hawklad that the school half term week off is the last week of February. It always is….

I couldn’t work out last why a few of the teachers kept talking about end of module lessons, need to get things finished this week, we start something new in a couple of weeks…. Still the obvious didn’t sink in. Not until one teacher set an ‘end of half term test’.

Ok the week off is this week. This is completely down to me. School emailed parents after Christmas with the correct dates. The school calendar is clear. Basically the muppet gauge is registering ‘off the scale’ currently with me. That might explain why I put my coffee cup into the tumble dryer with the towels. That might explain why I filled my bath with cold water. That might explain why I lost my mobile so I tried phoning it on the land line – kept getting the engaged sound and didn’t work out that I was repeatedly phoning the landline. Might explain why I couldn’t find the toothpaste and strangely found that it was in my hand all the time. Might explain why I put Deep Heat on a hand cut rather than Sudacrem.

Everyday I move further away from George Clooney and ever closer to Homer Simpson. That’s both in looks and thought.

Wish I could forget that bit.

Gone mad

Almost feels like winter….

Worlds gone mad. Well this country has.

This morning I was reading a scientific critique of our Government’s partial herd Immunity strategy. To summarise they found the Government’s approach deeply flawed and has resulted in a significantly higher death toll than should have been expected. The report argued that we should have adopted airport controls and checks at 10 months ago. We should have out in place an effective test and trace system. Lockdowns should have been used more effectively. The Governments decision to offer eat out at restaurants vouchers, open up the beaches for summer and ease regulations for Christmas were argued to be catastrophic decisions. The report pointed to the success New Zealand had achieved.

But then the madness starts. The so called impartial BBC Political Chief argued that it was impossible for the Government to do these things. It was also silly for opponents of the Government to compare here with New Zealand as….

New Zealand is an island and Britain is not an island. It’s a Kingdom.

I must go and check out our new found land bridge with Europe then….

If only that was the end of the Madness.

News today that another health contract has been awarded to a close friend of the Health Secretary (the chap awarding the contract). Apparently a close friendship and a personal political donation of thousands doesn’t constitute a conflict of interest!!!

If only that corrupt madness was the end of it.

After almost a year of having zero Covid checks or controls at our airports the Government has suddenly had a change of heart. Now it’s a 10 year prison sentence if you break the new airport rules. Hang on isn’t this the same Government that only a month ago was threatening parents and schools with court action if children did not go into the classroom. Ok so now you can get a 10 year prison sentence for lying on your Travel declarations. Let that sink in. Boris Johnson wants a 10 year prison sentence for people who lie – that’s Boris the serial liar…..

If only that was the end of the Madness.

The Government Numpty in charge of our schools has said that he is seriously looking into extending the school day and drastically cutting school holidays when they reopen. Reopen without any further social distancing or controls. Apparently pupils must catch up academically and that needs hard work. That is the only priority. Remember this chap. He was the one who clamped down on the time off children could have after a family death. He described bereavement leave as an extended holiday.

This might appeal to some but to me it is madness. Already he has slashed break and lunch times to cram in more school work. Let’s flog pupils and staff even more into the ground. No mention of improving the quality or safety of the learning environment. No mention of changing the disastrous national curriculum. No mention of boosting resources to make homeschooling more effective. No mention of offering the option of targeted help. No mention of mental health investment. No mention of a strategy to help with sports and leisure activities.

This island, sorry not an island, Kingdom has gone mad.

Oops

I’m conscious that the posts have been a little dark recently. Let’s try to have a fun one…

This lake is only 3 miles from us. 3 miles of forest, farmland and rolling hills. Only 3 miles but seems so far away. Has it really been a year since we were here last. Wow.

Where does time go.

I was looking at some old photos for Swiss Sunday when I came across two old ones. Back to when someone was a toddler.

Someone asked if he could have Dads sunglasses.

Oh look Dad I’ve pulled your sunglasses apart.

Where does the time go.