Despite Michael “Oiky” Gove touring the studios earlier this week and reassuring anyone who put the question that schools would - or maybe that was should - reopen on Monday next week, the worsening rates of positive tests and hospital admissions suggest that, in the case of secondary schools at least, it might not happen. Not until February.
As the HuffPost has reported, “Michael Gove has said the government hopes the staggered reopening of schools in England will go ahead as planned, despite reports that scientists have recommended they should all be closed to prevent coronavirus infections surging … The Cabinet Office minister said he was confident primary school pupils and Year 11 and Year 13 pupils in England would be able to return in the first week of January, with the rest going back later in the month”. He hopes. Which means it may not happen.
There was more. “The commitment comes as it was reported the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has recommended all secondary schools remain closed in January. According to Politico, the body advised that the R rate might be kept below 1 if schools stay closed in January and that closing secondary schools would have a bigger impact than shutting primary schools”. The Government is now considering what to do.
This has now been picked up on by the national part of our free and fearless press. Under the headline “Covid surge triggers split over school restart plan”, the Guardian notes that some in Government are taking the same side as teaching unions, that Education Secretary Gavin “Stupid Boy” Williamson is “fighting a rearguard action” to reopen schools, and that the number being treated for Covid-19 in hospital has passed last April’s peak.
The Murdoch Times has also made the story its lead item, telling “PM under pressure to delay school reopenings … Daily Covid cases exceed 40,000 for the first time”. So who would care to shower its readership with spite and dishonesty? Yes, it’s the Daily Mail, thundering “DON’T BETRAY OUR CHILDREN … Fury as schools poised to shut until February”. The inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker say the Army is coming!
“Next term is already being postponed by a week for most secondary pupils to allow for coronavirus testing. But teaching unions and scientific advisers are seeking at least an extra fortnight's delay [Boo unions! Boo experts!] in the face of a surge in infections. But the MoD will now draft in the personnel to form local response teams [Yay Army!]”.
While the tendency to prevarication of alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is not helpful - and, indeed, potentially deadly in itself - the constant attacks from the press, selectively quoting anyone they can find to stand up headlines already written, is at best unhelpful and at worst pouring yet more fuel on the denialist bonfire.
Secondary schools may have to remain closed next month. And the idea that SAGE, or anyone else, isn’t thinking of the children, is just another malicious pack of lies. We are living through difficult and indeed deadly times. Maybe stop making things worse, eh?
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