Some musings…

I last saw my son at the beginning of the year when he came home briefly from China for a visit. Pretty much as soon as he got back to China, there came the frightening time when he went into a complete lockdown and we didn’t know what would happen. He was in lockdown for 54 days, not able to leave for food unless he was checked.

After 54 days things gradually started to open and become normal again. Any outbreak since has been controlled really quickly. In one area 9 million people were tested in 5 days for a handful of cases, to stop it spreading. Simple really – mass test people to catch all cases.

He has been living a normal life there now for several months. He hasn’t had to deal with another lockdown, things just gradually got back to normal. I’m not worried about him as much now, I am far more worried about my daughter across The Pennines in Leeds having to endure lockdowns, furlough and little uni teaching time. Our young people are struggling.

I seem to spend a lot of time angry. A couple of months ago if everyone had been tested in parts of the North West, or if we had had mass testing in schools, we wouldn’t have had to deal with the ridiculous number of isolation periods, we wouldn’t have had to juggle those in and those out learning remotely for extended periods of time. Students would have the routine of being in school, where they should be. Instead there seems to be constant criticism of schools for doing the right thing, for taking medical and scientific advice to isolate contacts and try to drive down the virus in their local communities. There almost seems to be a sense of embarrassment and shame for schools that have had to deal with large number of cases. A few weeks ago I read a tweet proclaiming that their school (in an area with low case numbers) had dealt with it ‘really well’ because they had no cases, somehow making it sound like those schools constantly battling where somehow doing something wrong, or were more unhygienic than others…not that there were in areas where there were higher number of cases. At certain points parts of the Greater Manchester area had cases of 1:20. That is bound to come into schools – it’s approximately at least one per class. I know people who have had it, and believe you and me, none of them were wandering around maskless, allowing students within 2m to breathe all over them and never sanitising their hands.

So, back to my son. I am not scared for him in China anymore. I am scared for us. I won’t be able to see him for the foreseeable future, but he is safe, he can travel and visit other places and he is living his life and that is all that matters. I love seeing the photos of him and his classes, not needing to distance or wear masks. I posted a picture of him out socialising a few months ago on Twitter and was told he was ‘irresponsible’. Actually what I think is irresponsible is the way in which it has been dealt with on this country. I am in no way saying that China is a fantastic shining beacon of a country – and that’s a whole other debate, but he is pretty much safe from a virus that we are not. Ironically, he is more worried about us.

As teachers, parents, school leaders etc, we shouldn’t be angry at each other, we should be angry at how poorly this whole pandemic has been dealt with. At points, decent testing and a robust track and trace system would have pushed rates right down. Businesses in parts of the country wouldn’t have had to be shut for the majority of the year. Students wouldn’t have had to have been in and out of schools like boomerangs.

Everyone has basically been given license to socialise at Christmas. Despite warnings from scientists that it really isn’t a good idea, lots of people will and we will undoubtedly see another rise when we go back after Christmas. In fact, this seems worse to me, particularly the silence from those in government about this possibility. Just telling people that they should ‘be sensible’ doesn’t cut it.

I hope that I am wrong and it somehow miraculously starts to disappear and next term is easier, but I doubt it. Until then I think we should all rest over the holiday and brace ourselves. I’m sure the New Year will be filled with education announcements on top of everything else. And meanwhile I shall pride myself on being an old pro at the Live Lesson – who knew I would be able to embrace technology so quickly?

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