As I sit here in my kitchen three days before the official start of the new school year, not a single member of my family knows what they are supposed to be doing next week.
Of course my husband and I know the things we have to get done — shifts for work already on the fridge, calls all scheduled in the calendar, and the other stuff of life stacked up like the ironing pile, reminding me there is no good reason to be sitting on my sofa.
But my children have no sense of what their lives are supposed to look like next week, or when they should show up for school, or whether their schools will be shuttered altogether.
If we turn on the news, the top story is the Teachers Unions angrily bellowing at the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to shut everything down completely. He just caved to their demands in London and closed the few remaining primary schools he had tried to keep open.
Dr. Mary Bousted, joint head of the National Education Union (which has more than 450,000 members), called for all primary and secondary schools to be closed. She said, “What is right for London is right for the rest of the country.”
All very well Mary, but shouldn’t it be about what is right for our kids?
In my inbox there are endless letters from headmasters and headmistresses doing their level best to inform parents of something, but struggling because no one quite knows what. I can only imagine their frustration being asked questions to which they simply do not have the answer.
And of course our daily reality — as for so many other parents after Christmas — is that the kids need a fresh start. New Year, new purpose, new term.
You can feel it in the way they move about the house now, grazing on anything edible to relieve the boredom of time without limits. They are in my space too, and I am noticing them more and how jolly big they all seem. Kids grow in lockdown — in every sense, but particularly the amount of share space they seem to occupy. And they are hungry for company and entertainment — not of their dear parents and our fascinating chats about painting the lounge windows or which trash bins need putting out for the morning. But the cheeky charms of their own friends, laughing at each other and life and finding the fun.
And of course our house is just a carbon copy of the next house, or the one down the road but one. Little units of people, all somehow out of kilter with the world as it should be, celebrating the certainty of a New Year with none of the certainty that goes with it.
And it is wearing. I see it wearing people down.
But I also see we are the lucky ones. Dad is classed as a critical worker and still has employment. (I reject the term Essential worker as the notion that others are non-essential is abhorrent.) Our house is tucked away amongst green fields, dotted with sheep and cows, and all of us are fit as fleas. We don’t share the worries of others about how we put fuel in the car or food in the fridge.
It is not the same story for others.
Before this whole Covid monster was born from the twisted mind of a globalist or a festering lab in Wuhan (or any other explanation), children were already suffering in homes where they simply should not be.
Other parents know it. Doctors know it. Police know it. Social services know it. And teachers of all people, are on the front line about knowing of it.
They know the children who come to school in dirty clothes, needing wash and comfort, and needing food. Teachers know there are children whose only meal is at school and who simply endure their home life. Other teachers speak of their relief seeing a child of a cruel parent turn up for another day.
Our teens are caught in this too — some tiptoeing the high wire of life, wondering whether it is worth continuing when there seems to be no future to look forward to, or everything they were supporting their dreams and ambitions with, suddenly ripped away.
Too many of us know someone who has lost a fourteen-year-old son or fifteen-year-old daughter to suicide. And those numbers are climbing fast.
A student at Liverpool University describes returning to University campus only to be held in effective solitary confinement in student accommodation:
“Since arriving back, I’ve had countless conversations with peers who are struggling with their mental health. I can’t even count those conversations on two hands. One girl took an overdose and had to be hospitalised. Another boy took an overdose. Many people are self-harming for the first time. The common thread when you ask why is because of the isolation and loneliness and anxiety that this brings.”
And of course there are stats to back this up. Someone commits suicide every 90 minutes in the UK. But stats are cold things. My sense is that many more of us have heard of a friend or family member losing someone young to suicide than at any time before. I have. And it is never far from my thoughts.
And none of this makes me feel luckier or better that all my children have to worry about is not knowing when (or if) school may start. It simply fuels my seething internal rage that Unions, many teachers, the fawning media and the idiotic Muslim Mayor of London are pushing so hard to close the very buildings that help some of our most deprived children keep a little flicker of hope alight in an otherwise dark and difficult life.
At one time young people’s mental health was all we ever seemed to hear about. Now that our young are overdosing in their student accommodation or ending their young lives under trains, suddenly no one wants to talk about it at all. All those lobbying for shutdowns, conveniently looking the other way,
Those teetering on the edge of a locked-down life of nothingness need something real to hold onto. Children in abusive homes need an escape. And my own children need the cozy familiarity of routine, friends and fun. We need our schools to stay open.