Melanie McDonagh

School closures leave parents with a serious headache

School closures leave parents with a serious headache
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Well, thanks a whole lot, Gavin W. The announcement that schools would close in England from Friday was pretty well inevitable when Scotland and Wales announced that this was the way they were going, but it doesn’t make the decision less tricky for parents. It’s not apparent that the move was made for reasons of clinical necessity – viz, that children were likely to cross infect each other and their teachers – so much as the reality that teachers were downing tools and simply not turning up. Certainly, that was the case with my daughter’s school, with a number of teacher no-shows, as well as pupils absences. Though it was notable in my son’s school that it was, in many, cases the older teachers who were coming to work and their younger colleagues who were absent.

Whatever. The plain fact is that for most of us, there are two incompatible things happening right now: compulsory working from home and the presence in that home of children. Naturally we want what’s best for them, but unless you live in the country where there are places for the children to play out of doors or in a very large house, the reality is that children will be stuck indoors just as their parents are – hah – meant to be looking as if they’re as productive as they’d be in the office. An awful lot of the places where children could go during holidays are now shut (all the museums and galleries where they might go when they’re not at school), which means that they’ll be at home on assorted devices. It’ll be like the holidays, only without any time limit and without anywhere to go. Obviously the last people who should be looking after children are grandparents, but for many people, that’s what’s going to happen. For other parents, except the rich, the whole working from home thing will not turn out quite as planned. For the self-employed it’s especially tricky.

We will be cheeringly told that Google Classroom is just as good as the real thing: certainly, that’s what my daughter’s school has been preparing for. If I had any cash to spare for a racing certainty, I’d put it on the contention that it isn’t, that there’ll be an awful lot of schooling not done from Friday - the only consolation being that exams have been postponed for the duration. God knows how that’s going to work. If they’re postponed until September, fine. But if teachers are simply allowed to allocate marks based on past performance, it’ll be chaotic.

Of course, worse things happen at sea and in Italy. Of course, the important thing is that the infection is contained. Of course, I enjoy my children’s company, honestly. And many people make a success of home schooling. I am just not altogether clear that it was clinical need, rather than teacher preference, that’s decided this. Meanwhile, the childless, the rich and those whose children are grown up can get on with the work while the rest of us will be engaging in compulsory quality family time.