A Plan for the Safe Return of Schools | Jack Broom

Whilst I do believe it is vital for schools to return as soon as they can, I am quite concerned that the government wants all children to go back to school before the summer holidays. From experience shopping and on my dog walks, it seems obvious that social distancing would be rather difficult in schools, even with class sizes of 15. It is hard to comprehend how schools will realistically socially-distance children in a humane way, especially with younger children. I have seen pictures of a nursery in France where children were told to play in marked squares; this caused much distress amongst people who saw the picture.

Considering these problems, I formulated the following alternative plan to the government’s proposals, which I hope will enable schools to manage social distancing in a reasonable way and enable children to get an adequate education they deserve.

In order for schools to return I believe the following measures should be implemented:

  • All classes should be streamed on Zoom for children who do not need to go to school.
  • Only children who have parents who both must work at the same time and are too young to look after themselves can go to school in-person. Children with special educational needs and those children in care should also be allowed to go to school.
  • Teachers who do not have access to a laptop or smartphone with a camera would be able to buy one on school expenses.
  • Children who do not have access to a laptop or smartphone should either be allowed to loan out a tablet or laptop from the school; or should be allowed to go into school, should this not be possible.

In my opinion, this plan would enable social distancing to take place in the classrooms and would mean that students are being taught as best they could. The social distancing would be more effective, as fewer children would be in school compared to the current government proposals. It would be my hope that Zoom (or similar format) lessons would provide a comparable level of education to in-person lessons as the teacher is present at all times, should the child need help.

I know from personal experience that the university work set by my lecturers has been inadequate, and not one of my lecturers have utilised Zoom to carry out online lectures. My brother has experienced an even worse situation with little or no communication with teachers; he is simply set work and pretty much told to ‘get on with it’. I am particularly concerned about him as he is in Year 10, so is set to take exams next summer. I believe he will be extremely disadvantaged if a more supportive learning environment is provided because he is struggling with the work set by teachers currently.

As long as the government make web-cams (or the funds to secure them) and Zoom available to educational institutions who need it, I do not see why this cannot be implemented. It would protect both pupils and teachers and provide students with the education they need. It also goes without saying, there must be adequate PPE and regular hand washing in schools in order to prevent the spread of the virus – something that would likely cost as much if not more than the alternative I suggest.

Part of the criticism I faced whilst sharing my plan with others was that some families do not have adequate internet access, however, according to an Office for National Statistics survey in 2019; 87% of adults in the UK use the internet every day or almost every day. This increases to 99% when looking at adults between 16-44 (who are the primary age-group of young parents). In my opinion, the lack of internet access argument does not stand up as the vast majority of households with children have devices that can access Zoom. The government has already promised to provide children with laptops/tablets along with 4G routers. For the very small percentage of children who cannot access the internet and who would not find the 4G routers suitable, they would be exempt from staying at home to study and allowed to return to school.

Coronavirus has posed many challenges to children, both academically and pastorally. It is vital that they are able to access their lessons and the support of their teachers and peers with ease; otherwise, they will be put at a disadvantage when it comes to exams. I believe that the outbreak has also recognised how vitally important our education system is to children and the important role teachers play in maintaining it.

Photo from @laur_dc1 on Twitter.

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