2020 has been an interesting year!
The lockdown as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic has been one of the weirdest times of mine, and I think probably everyone’s, life.
From its early beginnings as something maybe a little worse than flu, through to not really leaving our homes for weeks on end, each day has brought new and exciting changes for us to get used to.
That said, there are some things about the UK Government that have impressed me. The furlough scheme was implemented quickly and was very wide ranging, especially for a Conservative government. There has been extensive data sharing and for the most part putting science front and centre.
But where I have really seen disparities is in the education sector.
The Government were very slow to close schools, which led to a lot of unnecessary stress for parents, teachers and governors. They also maintained up until the very last minute that schools would not, in fact, close anytime soon. School closures were announced with just 48 hours notice, with guidance for schools going up with less than 24 hours to prepare.
As a school governor, I normally attend a “Full Governors” meeting every 6-7 weeks, with regular, short visits into school in between. With school closures announced the governing board had to rally round the leadership team, provide support and ratify plans on an almost daily basis for the first few weeks.
With these regular, virtual, meetings we were able to see the school’s response in almost realtime, and I am even more impressed with professionalism of the staff of our school. Plans were made (and remade when the guidance updated) and hardly a beat was missed as we went from a bustling 420 child school to a socially distanced 20 child school.
I watched as staff learnt new technologies and delivered lessons and materials to their pupils wherever they are. As they worked to include them in activities and eduction, and overcome whatever barriers those children have.
Unfortunately, I am also watching as children become more socially isolated and less and less interested in school work. As parents like Caroline and I work to try and keep our children connected with their friends, connected with their extra-curricular activities and try to ensure that they don’t fall behind in their academic progress.
I watch as the government makes grand promises about what is next for our children, without offering the tools and resources that schools need to make it a reality.
So I look to September with very mixed feelings; On the one hand children need to return to school. Not just for their education, but for all of the social and mental wellbeing benefits that stem from it; On the other I worry about putting our children in harms way, and that a (seemingly inevitable) second wave of the virus would force us back into lockdown, with children once again reminded of the social interaction that they are missing.
So for the next few weeks as a school governor I need to help my school hope for the best, but plan for the worst. We will be better prepared this time, and we are planning for multiple possible scenarios - first and foremost a full return to school with some social distancing, but also scenarios where some of our children will continue to be educated at home. We are better prepared this time round, and I know that the staff and pupils will meet those challenges head on.