Bin

Another day and another email from school. Another pupil has tested positive. I’ve lost count of the pupils isolating now. One year has about 80 isolating out of 130. Another year has about 60 isolating. Countless teachers can be added to the list. Sadly that’s what happens when a cramped and old fashioned school tries to operate at full capacity during a pandemic.

Unfortunately it’s a story being repeated across the England. The latest figures show that last week 400000 pupils were have to isolate. 50000 pupils had either tested positive or were suspected as having the virus. It’s almost as if the Government is trying to get as many of our children infected as possible.

Surely it’s time to bring in better controls within our schools. For a start opening up online education options to all pupils has to be done as a matter of urgency. That would instantly create space in classrooms. Cramped and overcrowded classrooms have to be consigned to the bin.

Childhood

So many pupils from our son’s year group are isolating. I’m also hearing that other pupils are being asked to isolate in other year groups as well. Many teachers are off. It’s all a bit of a mess really. Many schools are like this in the UK. They don’t feel like environments conducive to learning at present.

These are stressful times for many. I’m not sure the Government understands this. Or chooses to ignore this. Bland statements that ‘schools are the best place for children’ are recited everyday. It might be in terms of the Economy but….

Some children need to be in school. Some need to be at home. They definitely need to have the chance to have a childhood. A good childhood. It’s often too easily forgotten how much stress and anxiety they are under. Unable to see friends. Unable to do some of the stuff they love. Living in a stress filled world with so much confusion. Told to wear masks in buses and shops, yet told not wear them in classrooms. Frequent enforced teacher switches. Many sadly forced to isolate or deal with the actual virus. Living in a small world with few holidays and adventures. Watching never ending grim news reports. How much stress are many of our children under. We have to do something about this. To me that’s more important than the short term needs of the economy.

Our son is racked with anxiety. Too much to allow him to venture through the front gate. A significant part of his precious childhood is being spent in isolation. That’s hard to take as a parent. All I can do is to keep him feeling safe, try to shutout the bad stuff from the world and to try to find ways to help him still enjoy his childhood. He’s had a tough one already. Loss of his mum, coming to terms with Aspergers and now a Pandemic. That’s why I’ve got to work all the more harder. There’s still a childhood to be enjoyed.

Jarrow March

This photo was taken 4 years ago to the day. A day in October. A day early in my grief journey. A moment in our family history.

Time to turn back the hands of the clock back to before the Second World War. To another moment in our family history.

October 19th, 1936. Chesterfield to Mansfield.

From the 5th to 31st, the Jarrow March took place. 200 men walked 300 miles from the north eastern town of Jarrow to London. Jarrow was like many northern towns in that period. Bleak, stagnant and forgotten. The impact of a world wide depression was hitting this area hard. There was no employment. Unemployment was endemic. In Jarrow the unemployment rate was near 70%. The Government seemingly did not care, blind to the suffering. The Government even blocked loans that would have saved the town’s industries. Rising anger at gross inequality and injustice. The growth of racism and extreme right wing politics.

That was the context as 200 men set off on their crusade. A peaceful and dignified protest, carrying a 12000 signature petition asking for their industry to be reopened. A simple message. We want to work. We want hope.

The marchers were treated as heroes on the route. Galvanised a growing mood in the country. The petition was handed into the government with so much dignity and respect. In the short term the March failed. The Baldwin Conservative Government brushed the march and the petition aside. Clearly in their eyes some people were more equal than others. But in the long run the Jarrow March delivered. It set a new agenda. After the war the new Labour Government set about writing the wrongs. A comprehensive welfare state was introduced. Government with a conscious was established. One that cared for the less fortunate. Sadly a conscious which has started to be unpicked and now unravelled.

We live in a time of rising unemployment. Inequality and injustice are ripe. The growth of extreme politics. Sound familiar. We could learn so much from the Jarrow March. A Crusade marked down in English history. A family history as well. My family was on that march.

Well that will stop it

So today our so called Government announced that our local city is to be moved up the pandemic risk table. It’s now a tier 2 area risk. That’s officially HIGH. As a result additional rules will apply to those living in the city. One rule is that I can’t now visit my sister at her house in York. But here’s the thing.

Under the rules I could go to work with anyone from York – no issues there. But after work finishes I would then not be allowed to go for a coffee with those same co-workers. Suddenly mixing with them becomes too risky. Well that will fool the pesky virus…..

Bizarrely I have just noticed that my next nearest sister who lives in another city 100 miles away has also been classed as living in a high risk area. So I can’t visit her as well. Well this is going well…..

The Few

This is week five of our new school at home project. This follows on from 5 months of school at home which was enforced across the country before the summer holidays. Son is in now in Year 10 which is the third year of secondary school – that’s a lot of numbers in so few words. Spot the sad Accountant. Don’t worry I have undergone counselling and I have not relapsed into accounting for two years now.

Something struck me today. That wasn’t just the incessant rain hammering down on our little hill. It was a teaching thought. How much information is spoon fed to our children and how few opportunities are given to them to think freely. Over the last 5 weeks it’s basically been learn this and then answer some questions on what you have been told to learn. The sources of information are closely controlled. Set texts. Set webpages. Set topics. So few opportunities to explore, to follow interests. In that period I can think of Art giving a chance to pick from a limited selection of options to explore Japanese Art. Another subject provided a chance to briefly research diseases (well that’s a barrel of laughs). Computing has allowed pupils the opportunity to pick which mini homework modules they can work through – but it has to be from one set site. Everything else has been carefully set.

Why not let the next generation learn to think for themselves. Follow their interests. Have fun learning. Maybe that would be a start of recognising that each child is unique.

No that’s not allowed. The current Government actually thinks it’s not controlled enough. For example schools have now been instructed to ban any material classed as anti capitalist. Where does that leave the discussion of climate change. More straight jackets applied to education.

It really shouldn’t be like this.

Surely the needs of our children outweigh the needs of the few.

Seven months

I was checking my diary. It’s now officially 7 months since our own little family lockdown started. Seven months, that’s a long time. Yes there have been some bleak and lonely periods. But we are still here. Still grinding onwards. That gives me hope.

With our son’s anxieties, with a pandemic showing no signs of ebbing, with increasingly random government – we just have no idea how long this family isolation will go on for. Possibly for many months to come.

Yet we have already survived 7 months. We have made some new memories. Still had fun times. Technology allowed friendships to flourish

We have more than just survived 7 months, did manage to live a bit as well. We can certainly cope with a few more months of this.

Challenging

It’s wet. It’s cold. It’s dark. It feels like winter. At least the leaves are still in autumn mode.

It’s going to be a challenging few months.

School has now contacted all parents following the recent in school positive covid cases. Our sons year group have been instructed to return to school. However a further 57 pupils are being asked to self isolate for 14 days. It’s not just our school. Another 5 local schools have at least one year group isolating, with another school reporting its first cases today.

This is on the same day that the government once again stressed the civic responsibility to attend school. Schools are perfectly safe and the risk of infection is extremely low.

Are we supposed to believe you Boris?

I remember you telling university students to go back to college as it was their civic duty, it was perfectly safe and students would risk losing places if they refused. Just a few weeks later and in one local city 1600 of the 2200 new infections are from university students. Nationally over 10000 students have now gone down with the virus In another city a number of the university students have required intensive care treatment due to the virus. Many other students are now on lockdown, confined to their rooms.

Apparently this is all the fault of the students…..

Are you supposed to be in charge Boris?

Going to be a challenging few months.

Busy lines of communication

Another email from school. Another confirmed case. This time sadly a pupil in our son’s year group. The pupil had been in a class with a member of staff who had previously tested positive this week .

The headteacher had sought advice from the authorities but was told that they were unable to help until after 9am on Monday. As its currently impossible to work out which other students may have had close contact with the new positive case it has been decided to go against government advice and keep the whole year group off school until further notice. From Monday all pupils in the year (including Hawklad) will switch to online classes.

This is at the same time as research is now indicating that the fastest rising age group for new infections in the UK is the 10-19 group. This is also at the time that the government is sticking to its line that schools are perfectly safe in the UK and contact tracers have been told not to trace school based infections.

It really is time for the government to act. Yes schools do need to reopen but with appropriate safeguards and changes. The UK has some of the largest class sizes in Europe. Add that to cramped classrooms and it’s asking for trouble. We should have done two things before the schools reopened. Seek to secure additional classroom space by allowing schools to utilise additional accommodation options in the local area. Exactly the same way as the country quickly put in place the recent Nightingale Hospitals. The second key change should have been to give parents a viable online schooling option – if families are able and willing, let them be schooled at home. Together both approaches would have created much needed space in our classrooms. Space means enhanced social distancing, which means a reduced risk of virus spread.

Surely it’s time for an urgent rethink here.

Revolution

I was asked about if our son was any closer returning to school. This is his fourth week at home since the school returned full time. Well two things from today really paint the picture.

First an email from school advising that the school had now had its second confirmed case. This time a member of staff. Apparently the confirmed cases so far are not considered to be linked. A small number of individuals have been asked to isolate for 14 days and the school remains fully open.

The second was a conversation with our son. His words need no more elaboration.

“Dad I go into meltdown if the bedroom window is open. In fact I can’t even touch the window handle to close it. I just can’t go back. Can’t go back for some time to come.”

And there is our answer in a nutshell. At present government ministers are telling parents to ensure there kids go to school as it’s perfectly safe and is in fact our civic duty. To not do now apparently makes you a bad parent, someone who is not acting responsibly. Must get those words on a T-shirt.

I will continue to act irresponsibly and avoid doing my civic duty. Our son will return to school when he is ready to do so, when it is safe and when he is comfortable doing that. Until then – Viva La Revolution…..

L

Reviews

I want to start this by apologising. With being largely house and garden bound, I don’t get out much. Haven’t got out much since March. So I don’t get to that many different places. That’s why you tend to get the same views in my photos, over and over and over again. One day they will change. Thankfully the changing skies try to help out a little.

Isn’t it nice when you look at reviews for something you are looking to buy and they all agree. It gives you a level of confidence about whether to spend your money or not. But when are we that lucky. Normally it’s five camps of reviews

  • The greatest thing since sliced bread, unbelievable quality,
  • It’s useless, the wrong size, wrong colour, doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do and falls to bits with days,
  • It’s ok but I’m not really sure,
  • Clearly reviewing the completely wrong item,
  • It’s a present for someone so it’s not been used yet……

How can people see the same thing in so many different ways. You end up being even more confused than before.

I’m looking to get a language app. Hopefully one which both of us can use. So covering German and French. I have an old one which is great for learning German words but is rubbish at actually developing my conversational skills. So I’m looking for one that can actually start to make me fluent. Son needs one to help with his homeschooling. So he can learn French. Improve his vocabulary and spoken work. In an ideal world it would be dyslexic friendly as well. So not much to ask for then…..

Rosetta Stone was mentioned by a few people. Yes it’s expensive but it covers both languages and is supposed to be quite dyslexic friendly. So let’s see the reviews. Well it’s either brilliant or useless. Fantastic for building conversational skills or maybe it’s only good for learning individual words. Worth every penny or a complete waste of money. The reviews were no help at all. I guess it depends on the person and what they need. So I’m none the wiser.

So you have to be careful with reviews. Certainly school reviews.

I remember someone asking me about son’s last school. I think I said ‘it’s very nice just a bit rubbish. Disorganised but it’s heart is in the right place’. Bit harsh but I thought it was fair.

Well I looked up the reviews for my son’s current school and it seems to get mostly really high approval ratings. As a parent that would certainly encourage me to send my child there. But then you drill down further. Yes lots of very positive reviews from parents. Comments like

  • Great school,
  • Very good on discipline,
  • Learning focused,
  • Gets results,
  • Responsive,
  • Good teachers,
  • Child enjoys school,
  • Great headteacher.

Still looking great and then you look at the small number of negative reviews. Something then strikes you. All those comments come from parents with something in common. Every single negative review was from parents with children who had special educational needs. Aspergers, Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Oral and Written Language disorders. Suddenly the comments changed. Now the language was

  • Useless if your child has an Education and Health plan,
  • No support,
  • Teachers don’t care,
  • Unresponsive,
  • Too quick to write kids off who need support,
  • Might as well teach at home,
  • Had to take our child out from this school,
  • Child is stuck in the bottom set and the school is seemingly happy to keep him there,
  • Child is so unhappy.

Sadly this is replicated in too many schools across the UK. It shows the overall school system priorities. Demonstrates the values of the Government. As a country we let down too many with additional educational needs. It shouldn’t be like this.

Sometimes reviews don’t lie.