Following on from my comment last week about teachers perceiving the lockdown break as a ‘little bit of a holiday,’ it came as no surprise to read about a headteacher taken to task for criticising some of her staff. Pauline Wood, head teacher at Grange Park Primary School in Sunderland, spoke out on local radio and refused to defend members of her staff sitting at home doing nothing, arguing that teachers are, “paid to work five days a week.” Her governing body disapproved of her public remark and has now suspended her. The problem with the teachers began when she asked them to come in three days a week rather than two, which of course is not unreasonable given the high percentage of underprivileged children who attend the school (40%). She is not some average headteacher, but one who had taken the school from inadequate to outstanding, made it a flagship school during her 15 year tenure, and also transformed it, making it one of the best performing in the country for maths and phonics. Rather than rounding on the headteacher the governors should have defended her, because solid teaching is critical to these children’s education, as well as ensuring value for money for their stakeholders. If they don’t teach, children won’t learn.  The governors are obviously lacking in backbone and obviously couldn’t see the WOOD for the reTuRn-EES. (ouch) We need more head teachers like her.

Gavin Williamson speaks out again, pledging to get all our children back into the school in September “come what may.” He threw down a gauntlet at the NEU, calling them the No Education Union. Transposition can at times be funny, but sometimes the truth really hurts, doesn’t it? Allies of Sir Keith Starmer, the new labour leader, have been encouraging him to replace Rebecca Long-Bailey, with a more moderate individual who will be prepared to stand up to the teaching unions. She was so vociferous in her support of the NEU that they were effectively weaponised against Boris Johnson. Following that nudge, Sir Keith has just appointed Kate Green as the new Shadow Education Secretary, following Long-Baileys sacking. Now that is a good move, if definitely a sharp ‘left’ turn.


Staying on education, recent reports shows that for all the countries which have had school closures, the reopening has had little or zero impact, apart from schools in Israel and South Korea. Evidence gleaned from the EU showed 17 countries have already returned, showing no significant increase in covid infections. Most intriguingly the schools in Sweden – which never closed – only had one noticeable outbreak. I completely understand the fear raised by epidemiologists about high school children who are approaching adulthood, and who therefore carry more significant risk to others in terms of viral load, but can you imagine the collateral damage if millions of children are kept in a staggered return, perhaps lasting till March, at which stage some children might have been out of education for 12 months?!?  I’ve been off my Russian lessons for only 3 months now, and I feel like I’m back in гимнастический зал {gimnasticheskiy zal} – high school. Go on, you try and say it!  Whilst I’m on the topic of Russia, a country which has produced some of the finest artists, gymnasts, musicians, poets, scientists [okay, almost everything] in the world, it pains me to mention their president, who is showing again his strong-arm tactics in trying to force a power grab lasting until 2036. His current term of office is due to expire in 2024, but it seems he just doesn’t want to leave. But there is no magic wand, he cannot re-write the rules, as neither can I with my terminal diagnosis.  The biggest difference between us – aside for the fact Vladimir is a pensioner – might be that I am less likely to be assassinated. The Russian people have a massive distrust of their president of 20 years, even if he’s fit and a sporting all-rounder, and obviously considers himself the equal of any man.  Hang on, wouldn’t he make an excellent ‘bad guy’ in the next James Bond film? We could call him Vlad the Bad.


An engineering company which develops unmanned vehicles for the military has been given £50,000 in state funding to explore the possibility of applying this technology to hospital beds.  Digital Concept Engineering (DCE) was awarded the funding after a call from Innovate UK, apparently motivated by reports of porters falling ill after moving beds with coronavirus patients. If, as we hope, coronavirus will take its leave in the not-too-distant future, one wonders if this is a development too far.  It would bring a new take on the expression, he’s off (on) his trolley. The mind boggles…  Can you really see this catching on?

Patients still hoping to get an urgent dental appointment are likely to face extra charges of up to £35, to cover the cost of mandatory PPE. This ties in with my observation recently that dentists felt that they were having to pay up to 600 times the regular price for PPE. This additional charge will only affect private appointments, as the NHS sector charges should remain price protected.

Pharmacies are back in the news once more [Telegraph, 30th June], being warned by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPA) for profiteering. Those investigated for inflating prices of masks and hand sanitiser should expect the public to report them, and to face a fine. In an open letter to pharmacies, the watchdogs jointly wrote, “we have received reports that a small number of pharmacies are seeking to benefit from the pandemic by charging unjustifiably high prices for essential products.” A spokesman for the National Pharmacy Association, the trade body replied, “unjustifiable pricing in a minority of pharmacies risks obscuring the heroic efforts of pharmacies across the land.” I want to stress that not all pharmacies are guilty of this, but those that are cannot rely on customer goodwill going forwards. At the apex of culpability are the wholesalers who have stockpiled the products and materials, causing a bottleneck in distribution and a spiral in prices. We are completely empathetic with small businesses who are under pressure to survive. If you keep prices fair, you keep your loyal customers.

I mentioned some time back, that there was evidence to support a theory that Coronavirus may have escaped China much earlier than was declared. In this week’s broadsheets, researchers in Barcelona say they have detected the presence of the virus in a wastewater sample collected from March 2019. If confirmed, it makes for some very uncomfortable, if perhaps entertaining conversations between Mr Trump and President Xi, because unlike the governors mentioned earlier, Trump is not afraid to tackle difficult topics in the world classroom.


It is alarming to hear that Leicester has just had a resurgence of the virus, and consequently had regional lockdown imposed. Professor Carl Heneghan, from Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, said this is totally unnecessary, and implementing ‘track and trace’ would have been sufficient. This move by the Government has required local schools to revert to taking keyworker children only, and shops once again to close. Around 50% of London boroughs have also seen a flurry of spiking numbers, but these are fluctuating, so I hope it doesn’t set a precedent to deal heavy-handedly with every mini spike in the country. Testing has been the key issue, has been pressed for relentlessly, but there has not been enough of it. It would be horrific to steadily creep back to a national lockdown, and for those who have ‘shielded’ for 12 weeks, it is incomprehensible to start the clock all over again. Data reveals shielding has been shown to affect the mental health of women far more than men, especially in the 50+ age group. Men however are more susceptible to catching the virus. Now that’s rather an anomaly.

It is not surprising then, that Nicola Sturgeon has now mooted putting English visitors into quarantine, should (our) cases south of the border continue to rise. Professor Devi Sridhar, the University of Edinburgh’s public health advisor, is part of Ms Sturgeon’s Covid advisory team, and has voiced his concerns over ‘imported cases of the virus.’ Hold it, right there. Given our national airports remained open for months, is it any wonder the UK also had ‘imported cases’ of covid? Sridhar added it would be ‘straightforward for Scotland to become Covid-free if it was an island, like New Zealand.’ Hate to break it to you guys, but the UK IS an island. I’m therefore going to propose we let the genie out of the bottle, snap Scotland off at Gretna Green, and drag it out to the Diomede Islands, off Siberia. As they have so much in common – unrelenting leadership, complex politics, heavy dialects, not sure about the whisky – aside from their inclement weather, I’m sure they would have no trouble adapting. And, as I’m Scottish by birth, like Mr Connery, I can assure you how easy t’will be to pick up a decent Russian accent.  In the interim I’d better get my skates on, if I’m to get a quick trip up to Bonny Scotland, before needing my corona passport.

Edgware super-heroine Sarah Shiller has now celebrated her 80th birthday and has asked me to thank all the wonderful people in the extended community who sponsored her.  With a spring in her step and song in her heart, she completed her 100-mile walk.  JAMI will now benefit to the magical tune of over £4000 as a result. Kol ha’kovod, Sarah. We’ll see you next year p”G.  Finally, three cheers for Tommy Hudgell (5), a double amputee from West Malling in Kent who has raised more than £1 million for charity, by walking 10 km in June. What a champ!

Have a great week

Love Jacqueline x



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