Why We Shouldn’t Reopen Schools

Comment National Issues

Image description: children learning in a classroom

The closure of schools disproportionately affects the working class. Starved of appropriate funding for a decade, there is no way that state schools are able to provide the level of online teaching recommended. Even if they could provide this new format it works upon the assumption that all children will be able to access it and work in a stable environment. This is simply not the case, as we have seen from many university students who have been asked to do the same thing.

On that level, the obvious answer would be to reopen schools for the most important year groups, as the government plans to do. It is telling, however, that the likes of Eton and Harrow don’t plan on reopening for this academic year. The simple reason for this is that it is not safe to do so.

It’s as if the government and its supporters are more than happy for a few thousand children to die for the sake of getting people back into work and back into school.

Opening schools too early is going to endanger thousands of teachers, cooks, cleaners, pupils, and all their families. It is impossible to socially distance in a normal school setting. Looking back at my own high school days, I can’t even imagine what it would be like. It simply cannot happen in a way that ensures the safety of everyone involved.

One of the biggest arguments for reopening is that children are less likely to spread and be affected by the coronavirus. This may be statistically true, but that doesn’t mean that children are completely immune, or don’t spread it at all. There have been many cases of young people with unknown underlying health conditions who have tragically died because of this cold statistical way of looking at people’s lives.

It is as if the government and its supporters are more than happy for a few thousand children to die for the sake of getting people back into work and back into school. Who can blame the teaching unions for kicking off when the lives of teachers and their families are seen as disposable?

There have been many cases of young people with unknown underlying health conditions who have tragically died.

The government should instead be investing in making sure that all pupils have remote access to the education that they deserve. Buying laptops or tablets (free, nationalised internet doesn’t seem so ludicrous now) or sending round work by post if need be. They must do whatever they are able to do, must explore every avenue and exhaust every possibility, in order to maintain educational standards – without endangering thousands of lives.

The current binary choice of ‘do nothing because there’s a deadly virus’ or ‘go back in like nothing is happening’ is ridiculous and has no basis in either reality or the interests of the working class children who are being affected. We should be listening to the teachers who have dedicated their lives to improving those of children, rather than the likes of Gavin Williamson and Tony Blair, who are hardly the pinnacle of well thought out moral judgements.

Image credit: Taylor Wilcox @ Unsplash

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