Friday, 17 July 2020

Happy holidays?

Today we finally dismantled the trappings of our home-school: the pen pots and table mats that have been a feature of our dining table for the past four months: the books, the paints, the pencils, rubbers. Because, come September, my daughter will return to school, to proper school, the school she last attended on Friday March 20th 2020.

Of course I'm not naive enough to think that kids stop learning just because they're not at school. Home is the best, richest and most fulfilling educational environment for children. Or it should be. I know there are countless thousands, tens, even hundreds for whom this has been time lost, through no fault of their own.

But with good fortune and the luxury of time I've been able to keep the schooling going for the past fourteen weeks. I only wish it could be longer. Because the thought of my daughter returning in September to a class of thirty in a school of over 500, or my son resuming lessons in the same physical space as 1000 other pupils fills me with terror.

In spite of all the reassurances, in spite of the super-human efforts of the schools and of my children's teachers, the risk to them, to me, to all of us, hasn't gone away. The criminally-negligent among our rulers stick rigidly to their own agenda, which has more to do with making money than with public safety. That, and doing what the hell they want while telling everyone else to toe the line. Never has the phrase 'do as I say, not as I do' been more apt.

"Politics combines all the seven deadly sins and is the forgotten eighth," as Derek Jarman wrote. But the lies and incompetence of those who actually rule over us (as opposed to the little old lady in Windsor to whom we sing so loud that she may do so long) verges on the villainous and may actually be so if only someone could or would ask the right questions.

I was screaming at the telly during Dominic Cummings Downing Street testimony: ask him why his wife couldn’t drive? Why he didn’t take the train or order a ministerial car (after all, he’s that important - he told us so!) and why he wanted to bring the family back to a place where he said he felt ‘threatened’ anyway?

But nobody did. No doubt they're all afraid they'll be denied access to the Downing Street press briefings if they rattle that particular cage, the sycophantic morons. But, really!

None of the story made sense, apart from as a fragile fabrication designed to get him off the hook of having so clearly broken the government's lockdown guidance. First he flees a house he says has been made vulnerable through media attention, then brings the same, vulnerable family back to London, driving all the way when there's the East Coast main line not twenty miles from where he was staying. And why, precisely, did he need to go so far for 'childcare'? Again, no-one asked why he couldn't have called on family and friends in the capital. We now know there were some. There were plenty of other, less nefarious, options.

But the man, like the government he advises, doesn't seem to care. Coronavirus hadn't gone away; there is, as yet, no vaccine and no cure. The return in September to the 'business as usual' state schooling of packed classrooms and inadequate buildings is a huge risk. Yes, children - especially the vulnerable - need schooling. But not at any price. There are other ways of working that work for some. Yet we're back to the 'one-size-fits-all' philosophy that has blighted education in this country for so long.

The six weeks holiday that we're now embarking on is nothing more than a historical anachronism, a sop to those Tory landowners who couldn't countenance being without a child labour force at harvest time. Still, with some decent weather, we'll have a lovely time. I'm not complaining. I, for one, know my children will keep learning, as they always do, as they have done during lockdown, without a classroom.

But come September, when I say goodbye and wave them off to school I know I'll die, just a little...

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