One of the most difficult aspects of the current lockdown is the effect on children and young people. The government really wanted to avoid having to close schools again, but in the end, the rapid growth in infections right across the country meant that there was no option. The new strain of the virus was more virulent and this would place intolerable pressure on our NHS.
Locally, our schools did an amazing job making sure that they could offer a safe environment during the autumn term. Timetables were adjusted to try to reduce the disruption of students moving between classes and ending up in crowded corridors, with some putting more time between lessons so that teachers could move from one class to another more easily to reduce the movements of students. Year groups were sometimes separated into different parts of the school and bubbles were created in individual forms.
Our schools continue to do their utmost in these very difficult circumstances with most offering a full programme of online lessons. It is crucial that education continues in any way it can but, of course, nothing can be a substitute for actually being able to physically attend school. For those in year 11 or taking their A-levels, there is going to be another year where exams are disrupted, like last year and we need to ensure that the process for awarding grades is fair and takes account of the difficulties. Universities are going to have to take a much more pragmatic and grounded approach to assess students who want to go to university rather than just lazily looking at hard grades as they normally would.
However, the closure of schools does not just have the obvious effects around disruption to exams and teaching. It is much more profound than that. Children in both primary schools and secondary have been separated from friends. Children’s birthday parties can’t happen as they normally would and should. School sports events are not happening. We humans are social creatures. Friendships and the company of others is important. Forming those bonds and friendships is a really important part of growing up, whether it is in the formative early years as children start their first years as infants at primary school, or whether it is in those tricky teenage years as young people wrestle with all the insecurities and concerns that accompany that stage of life.
For all of these reasons, we must ensure that we do everything we can to get schools back as soon as we can. As important, when they do return, we are going to have to pay special. attention to help all those children and young people who have been affected by the lockdown to get back on track. It’s much more than just making sure they catch up on subject knowledge. There will be some who have lost confidence, drifted away from friends or have insecurities exacerbated. They are all going to need support to overcome the trauma of this episode. For now, it falls to families and parents to do everything they can to provide a supportive home environment.
Celebrating Cornish Heritage: This week a new website launched called Cornwall Yesteryear, trying to spread positivity by highlighting how unique Cornwall is and how proud we should all be in our heritage, head to cornwallyesteryear.com to check it out.