Monday… beginning of a new week, with all the excitement of new possibilities but also the pressures of combining real-life and remote teaching.
As a profession, we are working harder than we ever have. In my experience, large numbers of parents get this even if some politicians don’t. We could possibly get that message out more. What do you think?
Personally, I’m a bit zoomed out and am also missing having my whole class in school. But I wanted to share a couple of thoughts.
Whatever the dilemmas, our union is absolutely right to insist on drastically reducing in-person teaching in all settings, based on the scientific evidence. It is time the Department for Education started listening to us rather than avoiding reality and seeking to bury that evidence.
A case in point. Last week we finally got figures from the Department for Education showing that, contrary to repeated government claims, teachers, support staff, educators in all settings have been at greater risk of catching covid. That is especially so in special schools, where it is up to seven times higher.
When did Gavin Williamson have this data? Was he advised of it when he was pressing reckless full opening and opposing our calls for an extended half term and mitigating measures? Did he have it when he threatened to take schools and local authorities to court for closing due to increased risk?
Yet even now we are hearing evidence-free claims from some politicians about the safety of nurseries and early years. If this follows the previous pattern, then we shall shortly get the evidence that refutes that. We cannot wait for that and it is vital that our union takes a stand in all sectors. We will not let our early years colleagues stand alone. Speaking out has been our strength and it is making a difference.
For example, the increased recognition of our campaigning on child poverty. Yes, it is about free school meals and the great impact Marcus Rashford has had.
Yes, it is about increased attention on the “digital divide”, which we were raising well before the first lockdown and which the government has still failed to address satisfactorily.
But I sense things may be turning in the national mood, and going beyond just applying sticking plasters to one or other surface scratch of a deep wound. That wound is poverty and life-limiting inequality.
I was struck last week by this moving column by economics commentator Aditya Chakrabortty. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d urge you to, and to share with colleagues and friends.
He makes the point that aspects of poverty and inequality are being sliced and diced into separate sub-problems, that are then treated to what is largely lip service rather than a comprehensive social policy. It is very similar to arguments our union and profession have been raising for years.
He references the 1942 Beveridge Report, written under the Blitz, which set out a vision for what became the post-war welfare state. That document was also cited in this piece a few days earlier by the novelist Frank Cottrell-Boyce.
I strongly recommend that too, and not only because we are both from Liverpool! The emphasis on a radical transformation even – perhaps especially – at a time of great crisis, is surely right.
And I think there are signs that a broad coalition of support can be built around that as it was 80 years ago, extending throughout the trade union movement, through charities, religious and voluntary organisations, into the wider community.
I’d be interested in your thoughts on this and I want to return to it with some of my own ideas. It’s long been a defining national issue – not just back in 1980s Liverpool, but today in 2020s Norfolk where I teach.
Over the last nine months we’ve had to strengthen our union crucially where it matters, in schools and colleges, not only to support our members but also to inject some sound reasoning into the political debate on education and broader social policy.
We are going to have to come together even more to do that in the coming months and years. But there are signs of positive progress.
Enjoy the week ahead but, while you do, maybe think a little (just a little) about how we change the world.