Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary, has announced that all schools will be open again by September, and all year groups will return. Jolly good. I expect the unions will not play ball though, instead giving him a detention for that ‘predicted’ result. Our teachers are also unhappily in for a caning from parents, as we hear unions are going to insist on scheduling ‘INSET’ (staff training) days, which means that the summer term is going to be even shorter than expected. The unions say there’s no discretion in cancelling these, and I appreciate they will be vital to get the new year back on track, but I don’t understand why we couldn’t maybe have them factored in at the end of the school year? Given our extraordinary circumstances I would imagine emergency legislation could provide for this, and perhaps also add in some extra school weeks. How come we can cancel mandatory schooling days, but we can’t then cancel or postpone INSET days, which are calculated anyway on the premise of teaching a full academic year?
Whilst we do have some teachers who have definitely gone the extra mile and been in school to support the key-workers children, and other teachers have provided zoom and online lessons, I’m told by some school administrators there’s a swathe of teachers who have been slightly more risk-averse and may have perceived the last 10 weeks as a bit of a holiday. Ask yourself who has been out in the parks and the shops? It wasn’t just the children, and now we are rapidly approaching the official 6 weeks of summer break. We need to eliminate the fear of coronavirus now and concentrate on urgently finding child-centred solutions. On that note, Sage documents suggest the most likely solution is where all year groups and teaching staff will be split in 2, much like the ‘bubbles’ we have seen currently operating in (some) primary schools.
If pupils are to be once more ‘out of school’ for any extended time, then more likely what will happen – particularly for socially disadvantaged children – is they will just go off and meet at the park, spend their day gaming, or worse, getting into mischief. They will not be studying and anyone who believes otherwise needs to take their head out of the sandpit. More than ever some of our struggling youngsters need a return to full-time schooling. Never mind Call of Duty, it would be a dereliction of duty to neglect them. Hold on, though. If children are only going to have 50% attendance, then maybe the teachers should similarly enjoy a 50% salary? I am sure working parents would agree, but t’was of course, mere comedy on my part….. Education is the lynchpin of our children’s future. The only way to achieve all classes, all years, full-time, traditional schooling, is to move to a distance of 1 meter or less, and let’s get all thirty children back in a room. At the same time. Nu, Gavin?
Also in the headlines is Donald Trump, whose former national security adviser, John Bolton, can now publish his no-kiss, but tell-all book, so rules District Judge Royce C. Lamberth. The White House tried to block the release of ‘The Room Where It Happened’ and retrieve the
200,000 copies already in the public domain across the US. However, its contents have already been the subject of numerous media reports, including here in the UK. The Judge has now allowed full publication to go ahead, having cautioned that ‘the horse seems to be out of the barn.’ The book includes disturbing claims that Mr Trump had been unaware that Britain was a nuclear power, that the President had asked if Finland was part of Russia, and that he had sought help from Chinese President Xi Jinping to win November’s forthcoming presidential election in the US. The last of these was widely reported here recently by the broadsheets, not generally renowned for cowboy journalism. If even a tenth of what is written is credible, Trump’s election ratings are going to be superseded by his golf handicap. He set himself out to be the people’s president, a sobriquet which has already secured him 40% of the voter base, but this is unlikely to be enough to win the presidential election. His rival Joe Biden is not looking a certain winner either because of his various intellectual failings and obvious issues in cognition. John Bolton told Con Coughlan, defence editor at the Daily Telegraph ‘the President does not have a philosophical grounding or strategy… which is very dangerous for the country.’ He added that Trump assumed office with little personal knowledge of how government works and didn’t bother to find out. That’s not exactly presidential behaviour. I wonder what our Mr Johnson would make of that?
Now, a quick word on the political frenzy of statue assassination. Nobody will be left standing by the time we’ve analysed all the troubling views of historical individuals. I heard just recently that when Nelson Mandela was in office in South Africa, he refused to take down the portraits of the other former presidents. Why? He said those individuals were a true reflection of the country’s history, regardless of whether it was good or bad, and that’s my feeling with regards to history in general, and statues in particular. They reflect something in our history which may not have been perfect, but a lot of individuals like Thomas Guy (of the famed Guy’s Hospital) and did an awful lot for community and for the nation. We could also take it a step further, and refuse to accept scholarships funded by communist regimes, because we disagree with their underlying politics.
But if we must destroy their names, their faces, their statues, let’s at least not be duplicitous, eradicating their names, but determining to keep their money. It’s not right that people want it to cut both ways. Pull down Cecil Rhodes statue, but don’t take the Rhodes money from the scholarship fund. I would like to propose this week’s sacrifice on the altar of political correctness, to be the classic triptych of Three Wise Monkeys. I feel such imagery is an attack on the intelligence of primates and must not be allowed. However, if President Trump were to avoid seeing, hearing and speaking so negatively, he would definitely win friends and a heck of a lot more votes.
On the heated subject of travel quarantine, Professor Peter Piot, microbiologist and Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has joined a growing list of MPs and scientists calling for the PM to ditch the policy. He said it was ‘a useless measure,’ and there was no point in doing it now. It would only have made sense at the very beginning before we had cases. Professor Piot, who discovered Ebola and was a lead researcher on Aids, said the quarantine policy should be scrapped entirely as it wouldn’t contribute much (to preventing covid). Conversely the damage to the economy would be astronomical. Bit of an understatement. Well, let’s hope Boris might announce on Sunday that he will cancel it. Business leaders have reiterated that the aviation and tourism industries are being crippled,
with the Centre for Economics & Business Research placing the cost to the economy at £650 million a week. That should make us even more worried about the unemployment which will inevitably follow a landslide of redundancies.
China is back in the news, apparently for encouraging monetary rewards in vigilante-style tattling on individuals breaking coronavirus rules, and also for reporting on ‘sick people.’ This is raising genuine fears that those falling ill from coronavirus may be put on a hit-list, whereupon they might never be able to find work. I empathise with the Chinese people, because the problem at the outset could have been easily dealt with, had their Government not been so focused on an international Covid cover up. Feel sorry for them, for the rising stars at the top of the trees of wealth and knowledge always seem to miss the school of hard knocks.
Senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch, Maya Wang, has said the pandemic has given opportunity for companies and (her) Government to legitimize highly intrusive surveillance systems. Smartphone monitoring and facial recognition is currently being rolled out, a system which has cost the equivalent of £4.5 million and seen the installation of more than 400,000 cameras. This in one city alone. Over the past 4 years China has invested billions into constructing these facial recognition systems and simultaneously building up a DNA database of male nationals, saying such tools ‘will aid crime prevention.’ Yeah, too right. Once you’ve been documented, facially scanned and fingerprinted, you will be too scared to do anything, for fear of reprisals, or risk being locked up long before you’ve climbed up on your soapbox to complain of persecution. There will never be a Speaker’s Corner in Beijing, unless it’s one of President Xi’s aides, brandishing a communist party megaphone.
Lastly, our condolences must go to the family of Sarah Scully (35) who developed covid-19 whilst heavily pregnant, and rapidly deteriorated in hospital. After a month in a coma, her ventilator was switched off. She died, never having had the chance to hold or see her new-born, other than in a photograph. How heart-breaking was that. She is survived by her mother, a twin brother and a son.
Until next week