Why I do not buy your reasons for keeping the schools open
So a chasm opens up – as a nation we are advised to keep our distance, avoid close contact, avoid large gatherings, work at home if possible. Many organisations support these ideas and encourage homeworking to help protect their health. The streets empty, events are cancelled, we all retreat for our safety.
Not you though, teachers and children.
You need to squish up together in close proximity, in fact in larger and larger classes, even if your head advises against it. On the BBC a few days ago, the capacity to increase class sizes and merge classes and schools was listed as a way to reduce the infection.
A few reasons are put forward for this… and none of them stand up to scrutiny. The contradictions, chop logic and just plain callousness of these ‘arguments’ have been taking up far too much brain space for the last couple of days, so I thought I would try to set them down. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who can answer my objections and challenges here, because God knows I would love to be wrong in my conclusion that the current government is incompetent and reckless with our lives.
1. The schools have to stay open because otherwise there will be a huge gap in childcare for families especially for NHS workers.
Well I can see that may be true, but let’s take that apart for a moment. If it’s childcare capacity you want, then schools are a really inefficient way to provide it. I mean the vast majority of secondary students don’t need childcare, so that not really a reason above Y7. So why not close the secondary schools and reopen them in some helpful way to provide emergency childcare centres, with proper cleaning, testing and advice. This is a much more efficient way to solve the problem, for the purposes of this emergency. I have no classes at all that need childcare. In fact some of the students I teach could in fact help out.
If it is to do with providing childcare, then what’s going to happen in three weeks time when the schools close for two weeks? Also very few working parents can get by with just schools hours for childcare; so what about all that wraparound childcare? Are we going to insist nurseries, childminders and preschools stay open too? And what about all the grandparents providing care at the beginning and end of the day, which brings me onto…
2. The schools must stay open otherwise the grandparents (who are more vulnerable) will have to look after the children and the children will give them COV19.
This one has more holes in it than a Gouda. Firstly, it’s a false dichotomy: if the children are at school, they AREN’T in contact with grandparents at all. There is a huge amount of wraparound childcare being provided by grandparents outside of school hours, and indeed in the holidays, in three week’s time. Even if they aren’t being cared for formally, children will visit grandparents anyway and come into contact. Unless we recommend that children don’t see grandparents at all – which we aren’t – this makes no sense either. In fact, keeping children in school rather than leaving them at home with grandparents in fact significantly increases the chances of children passing on the infection to grandparents – at home with just granny or even at the shops or the park, their chances of catching the infection are much much lower. If you want to protect the elderly then do that – and give them more detailed advice than ‘don’t go on cruises’. Suggest the elderly and vulnerable stay indoors, mobilise services to support them in this, including providing alternatives for their childcare responsibilities. Which leads me onto:
3. Children only get it mildly anyway.
SO MANY HOLES here. Firstly, the issue is surely (see above) that the children are passing on the virus? So whether they get it mildly or not is hardly the point. Also, surely if they only get it mildly that’s MORE dangerous, as if they are well, aren’t they are more likely to pass it on to the vulnerable? A coughing child might stay at home; a seemingly well one won’t.
Secondly, this suggests a general rule (children get it mildly) is specifically applicable (all children will get it mildly) – whereas many children do in fact have health issues. Are we suggesting that they stay at home? No, we are sending them all in, to take their chances.
The biggest hole here of course is it presumes that only the children count, whereas schools are full of adults, many of whom will NOT get it mildly, and some of whom will die. Stop press, not all staff are young and fit and some of them are STOP PRESS AGAIN – grandparents, the same ones as we were trying to protect in 2. Grandparents at home = need protecting from the virus; grandparents in the classroom or serving up pasta = fine for them to get it. And then there are the staff with elderly parents, many of whom provide care for them too.
So we should allow students and staff who would be at risk to not attend school so they don’t die. This seems like quite a straightforward statement, yet suddenly it’s apparently controversial.
4. If we let children stay at home they will go down the park anyway or mix with their friends.
• Chance would be a fine thing, they will stay indoors on their phone or X box
• At most they will mix with two or three of the same people in the open air or one room. Are you really suggesting this is as dangerous for infection as staying in a confined space with hundreds and perhaps thousands of students?
5. Everyone will be ok, especially teachers, if they just follow the advice and wash their hands.
This would be comical if it wasn’t so tragic. If it’s as simple as ‘just washing your hands’ then why are their huge spikes in infection? Also, and I can’t emphasise this enough, schools are FILTHY DISGUSTING places. Not the one I work in obviously, but the rest of them. The loos are so bad in most schools that students won’t use them. Give it a quick estimate – how many students wash their hands for 20 seconds with hot water and soap at least once a day during the school day? 20% 10% 1%? Now, tell me again how it’s easy to avoid infection in a school.
Now we come to the really mind-bending part:
6. We have to keep the schools open because this will mean that people get the infection sooner, so we achieve herd immunity and peak sooner. We are all going to get it, so we might as well get it now. I have heard a description of how children can help ‘leak’ the infection into the population.
Note, first, how this one contradicts 100% our justification number 1. Are we trying to encourage children to infect their friends and family, or not? If schools are forming an infection hub, what does that mean for those grannies we were so careful of a minute ago? Note, dear reader, that the use of children to form a hub for infecting their friends and the wider community is without their consent. Note that it is only children and school staff that are being used in this experiment in this way, with no clear idea as to how this might affect them, what is required for herd immunity (60%?) or how long it will take to get there, or even if herd immunity can be achieved without a vaccine, still some months away. No consideration for those who are part of this experiment that might have higher chances of death than others = everyone must take part. No word of accurate death rates at all.
If we are all being signed up for this experiment, let’s see what we are signing up for. How many more people will be infected sooner? How many will die? What are the calculations you have made with teachers’ and children’s lives? What effect will creating a peak early have, and how will the NHS cope with this? How far away are we from getting a vaccine, staffing and resourcing the NHS properly so we can reduce those deaths?
And if a school of 1500 is an excellent hub to bring the peak sooner, then why not the House of Commons? Why not football matches? Why are the children and staff the right feeder unit?
And tell me, because I REALLY want to know, will the private schools be forced to stay open too? I think we all know the answer to that.
7. If we close the schools now, they will be shut for months.
So F**KING WHAT! Close the schools if it’s needed, not if it’s not needed. If it’s a question of timing, tell us that. But dead is dead forever, so you had better be as sure as you can be before you start playing God with us and our children.
So can we just stop trying to convince us with this set of circular and flimsy arguments. Level with us – tell us the risks, and tell us why you think we should take them, and tell us how you are taking them too. Show us the evidence, show us the data, and put away your contradictions. We aren’t falling for it.