‘These unprecedented times do not mean school children have had their holidays early’

It is still not clear when schools will reopen. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It is still not clear when schools will reopen. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Another teacher has been in touch with their view on whether school holidays should be cancelled to get children back to school sooner.

“Cancel the marathon six-week holiday and get our children’s education back on track” are the so-called sensible words of advice given by Richard Porritt in his EDP opinion piece, which came complete with a warning that it would be unpopular with young people. Well, what about everyone else? Its unpopularity does not stop with the children.

As both a parent and a teacher, I feel strongly that the advice is, quite frankly, dangerous. There is still so much conflicting advice flying around. However, social distancing does seem to be working on the whole. How exactly would that ever work with children in schools?

Children are at least risk of not surviving Covid-19 if they were to contract it. This is what we have been told right from the start of this pandemic. However, it must not be forgotten that children are not the only people to be present in schools. Furthermore, if a child does act as a human sponge, soaking up the virus before squeezing it out onto one of their nearest and dearest, they could easily pass it on to someone who is not so resilient.

As Porritt says, our children are social creatures. They crave time with their friends. Separating them within the school environment would be nigh on impossible. Their education would be replaced with warnings every minute about Jack moving too close to Maisie or Isabella not sitting far enough away from Ben.

Furthermore, extra attention would need to be focused on cleaning. Where will the extra money come from for that? Teaching staff who are still working in schools at the moment often find themselves with antibacterial cleaning spray, expected to give everything a thorough clean.

In fairness to Porritt, he makes an excellent point about school being a safe place for a number of children. It could be their chance to escape an abusive childhood, even just a few hours each day, or the opportunity to have a conversation rather than be ignored. For some, this is their only hot meal of the day. Our vulnerable children are of utmost importance, and their needs must not be overlooked.

READ MORE: Children and parents have risen brilliantly to lockdown challenge - so will need a summer holiday

Porritt declares that children also need to return to school for the sake of their education. Parents are doing their best, but only teachers can teach the curriculum. Perhaps teachers are more adequately equipped to teach our subjects than parents, but that does not mean we should put our own health at risk. Many of us are self-isolating because of health conditions and also trying to balance teaching our offspring alongside doing work for our paid teaching roles. We are struggling too.

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Rather than apportioning blame and concerning ourselves with what we have lost, would it not be wiser to accept the vast majority of us are trying so hard to make this work? Would it not be better to pat everyone on the back and tell them that they are doing the right thing by staying indoors? Is it not possible for once to not worry about education lost and focus on what we have gained? This will not last forever.

As a country, we are on the brink of a financial breakdown. Some businesses are struggling to cope with the pressures, unable to even limp slowly towards the end of this crisis. The country could face a recession at some point soon.

It would be interesting to know where Porritt hopes the funding will come from to pay teachers to work during the six-week holiday. Many people do not realise that teachers get paid for just 195 days’ or 39 weeks’ work per year. Their pay is simply shared equally throughout the months.

I’d like Porritt to consider that while most children have been unable to attend school, they have not been having their usual holiday experiences. Gone (albeit temporarily) are the day trips to Great Yarmouth to ride the snails and trot along the beach on a grumpy donkey named Colin. No longer can they visit Pleasurewood Hills and insist on dragging their parents on the hideous rollercoaster.

These unprecedented times do not mean they have had their holidays early and should, therefore, return to school at the earliest opportunity. Furthermore, do teachers not deserve their break too? Many of us parents crave to spend quality time with our children and, while we are currently making the most of the situation, we are not experiencing the fun and laughter we would expect from a typical summer holiday.

Finally, I would like to declare that I am missing work more than I ever thought possible. If I thought returning to work were the right option for everyone, I would absolutely back the idea. However, there quite simply is not enough information to persuade me that you, Mr Porritt, are correct.