Our world changed on 23rd of March 2020. Life will never be the same for us: the entrepreneurs, professionals, workers, students, our families and the very fabric of our society. The decision to shut schools was a tough one in the first place. The scientific risk assessments at the time, led our government to take the unthinkable step of closing down educational institutions.
In my opinion this is an emotive and tricky situation to reverse. How do we convince the parents that what was deemed unsafe eight weeks ago is perfectly now safe? How do we explain that in the absence of a vaccine and contact tracing, it’s ok for your children to go back and share a classroom with (albeit lesser number) peers? How exactly do we get the children back to school & why should we?
For one, schools are levellers, we all know that. The only place children should be. Development psychologists will agree that nothing damages a child’s growth more than keeping them away from school, impairing their learning, well-being, and social skills. That’s exactly what we are doing. Creating potentially, a generation of socially awkward, financially dependent, anxious, depressed children.
A situation that will spiral out of hand, if we do not reopen our schools. Cambridge University’s decision not to reopen their campus till September 2021 is an example of how institutions can form extreme responses based on doomsday predictions. Time is running out. We (The government) either drive this or the Unions will.
Let’s base our decisions on the facts forwarded by scientists. Children are a low risk group, fact. Children make up less than 2% of those affected by COVID 19 globally, fact. Their immune system makes them react differently to the virus, fact. Children infecting adults with coronavirus is rare, fact.
Inversely, children missing school for up to 90 days are less likely to earn a degree, more likely to be unemployed & earn less than their counterparts who went back to school earlier or better still had no break (research based in Argentina on children missing school in 1980’s due to teachers strikes), fact. The learning gap between children from working class families and middle class will widen, fact. Children from working class families will be hit worst, fact. There is a devastating impact of prolonged lockdown on us, our economy, our children – is it worth it?
Immediate ramifications of leaving schools closed are equally glaring. Those returning to work will face childcare issues – this impacts our economy, our businesses, our livelihood, our mental health. Charities have predicted a rise in suicides post the pandemic. Our Chancellor announced that ”we will see a recession like never before”. The UK economy has already shrunk and unemployment could reach levels worse than the Great Depression.
I suggest that Boris take a leaf out of Mrs Thatcher’s book. Manage the unions, tell the trolls on Mumsnet to keep their online abuse to themselves, do not dither and delay and get our kids back to where they belong. The School! Like Nike would say; Just do it!
(Kanwal Gill – London-based Mother, Entrepreneur, Chairman of the Conservative Women for Diversity)