School isolation hysteria is not a solution-Adela Meer.


Local Harold Wood resident Adela Meer today writes in the Havering Daily:

There is no question that covid is a deadly disease for many. Yet for those who it barely affects the burden of responsibility to carry the weight of covid is vast. It has fallen upon Premiership footballers of late to remind the government of the typical person in society with whom this ruling party in particular seem so out of touch. Marcus Rashford took on child food poverty, he built on his own experiences as a child and put his celebrity status to fine use. But why should it take someone like this for the people we elect to represent us. Who will listen to our less obvious voices.

I am your typical parent, like the rest of the nation I wept when the first lockdown hit and I was forced to homeschool my two children aged 7 and 4. I am neither equipped professionally or emotionally with this task and the result was evident. For my youngest buoyant child it was not so much of a problem, yet for my reflective older one it was a journey laden with anxiety. Believing the government just needed time to settle into these unprecedented waters I did like most parents and just cracked on. However I am now way beyond sympathy, nearly 16 months later my children are still being sent home in blanket formats. Have we all not had enough?

Anybody can obtain a free Rapid Antigen Test from the chemist, it’s a home kit and takes 30 minutes to get a result. They give them out in Tesco’s car park they are so accessible. They are all the rage for people wanting to have peace of mind when attending parties these days. Yet the schools are not using them. I honestly have no idea what policies my children’s school are following, all I know is that from where I stand they are these. Guided by public health guidelines which no parent fully understands. Operating in year group bubbles yet more than one year group being sent home at the same time due to a positive contact. The emails that come are sudden, the explanations in print say ‘one case’ yet when pressed they formulate implications of many cases and shut parents questions off with the notion that they are not obliged to disclose who is infected. Neighbouring schools parents, note calls on the same day, almost like the teachers synchronise it. And so without the truth the conspiracies roll.

The children come home with wild stories of who they think it is who has tested positive, teachers they have never met, yet who have infiltrated other classes who subsequently are allowed to remain in school, offspring of suspected teachers being taken out of those classes to add to the lottery feel of it all. Parents are then asked to immediately collect their children and expected to find instant childcare for 10 days, or longer if another case emerges in that time. Children left lost, lonely, dejected and without proper farewells at the end of their school terms, watching as others are allowed to continue school, including siblings, and whilst attending ‘meet the teacher’ zoom calls with broken internet connections. 

Broken indeed is the word to describe our schools.

The lack of transparency from the schools creates this web of mistrust, parents jump to conclusions about the schools decisions and are left to pick up the pieces of a child, abandoned and banned from going to school, their safe place of learning and sociability.

What’s worse is where do these children end up. Shopping in supermarkets, staying with vulnerable grandparents, at large in the community rather than in a regulated space. Where else are working parents expected to leave them. Furlough schemes are ending, employers have adapted, yet parents are still being left with their main source of daily child care ripped away from them. Furthermore the amount of these children who actually test positive after being wrenched out of school, again is minimal.

This has to stop. Our children deserve more. Daily testing of any child suspected to have been in contact with a positive case and a transparent school approach which is crystal clear for all to see is required. It is time for the government to stop letting down its children and to show courage and leadership. An astonishing 22 billion spent in one year on a fumbling track and trace system and no money to keep children in schools. The drastic cut in the budget for school children Boris Johnson had promised, led to the resignation of education recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins. Compared to other countries the current UK budget per child to make up for the loss in education suffered by our children is far lower.
As the headline in The Guardian read this week ‘1m children off school last week’, The shadow education secretary, Kate Green said: ‘Parents and schools have been crying out for help, but the Conservatives have washed their hands of their responsibility to keep children learning’. The figure this week was much more with 1.7m children out of school due to covid related issues.

Fail to take a considered long term view and you fail your country. Failure to guide, failure to lead results with floundering interpretations of muddled policies that schools struggle with, where children are used as pawns, where parents are left time and again, without warning to pick up the pieces and deal with the educational, emotional, social and physical needs of our children, at what cost? Only time will tell.
Come September NHS test and trace takes over from schools. Described in the press back in September 2020 as an ‘utter shambles’, I don’t have much faith that my children are now safe from continued utter disruption.
I will no longer accept my child has any place being out of school and nor should you.

Adela Meer

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