Our children are already traumatised. They need clear messages about their future.

Boris Johnson and teenager in a hoodie
Support us and go ad-free

My son was due to sit his GCSE exams this summer. We now know this isn’t happening. But we don’t know any details. Just suggestions, rumours and vague assertions about getting the grades they deserve.

We don’t even know whether they’ll eventually be some kind of assessment. Just that the May and June exams are cancelled. But the announcement shows why the government needs to be careful in how it’s communicating and how precise it needs to be in its language. Something we know that Boris Johnson is utterly incapable of.

While writing this piece, education secretary Gavin Williamson stated that details will be published on 20 March. But this is what we needed to know last night rather than vague messaging.

Household arguments

This lack of clarity led to arguments last night. Our teenager kept insisting that he might still have to do exams. We kept insisting that he didn’t. We interpreted the announcement one way, him and his friends another.

After watching and reading a load of analysis, I apologised. He was right. There was no clarity. We thought it was just our child not being able to accept the overwhelming reality that he won’t sit his exams.

And I’m not even saying that I expected a clear plan. I realise these are unprecedented times, and as much as I hate what the Tories have done to education over the last decade, the sheer number of decisions that need making in this moment is mind-blowing. But even having the options explained or a time frame such as the one released this morning would have helped. It shouldn’t be left to children and parents to interpret and argue nuance in a speech to search for answers.

A changed generation

My son is part of a changed generation, a generation that will be marked by this virus. Older kids, the ones who understand what’s going on, are struggling to cope with the enormity of this. Like the rest of us, they are overwhelmed and traumatised.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Last night, we realised that tomorrow will probably be his last ever day at school. Although we had pulled him out to reduce spread, we’re letting him go in because we can’t take that last experience away from him. And as much as I despise the American prom tradition, it’s become another rite of passage he won’t have.

If Michael Gove hadn’t fucked up coursework for GCSEs, the whole process would be so much easier. But instead of having clear markers for progress, only two of my child’s subjects have any kind of ongoing assessment. And like lots of teenagers, he’s only just started to work properly now. His stats, key milestones, or whatever stupid jargon the school is forced to use, are irrelevant. He’s always been smart enough to know when he really needs to work and what he needs to do in the current system to ensure he can do A-levels. And this must be the case for so many children.

Privilege

I keep crying writing this. But I acknowledge and know how much privilege we have. We’re lucky we already work from home. We’re lucky we’re not reliant on free school meals. I keep thinking about all the vulnerable kids, the kids for whom home is not a safe environment. It’s why, as I’ve previously written, I’m finding everything so overwhelming. It’s because it’s so encompassing. I get upset about the personal, and then think about others, and then things spiral because we’re all doing what we can but it’s easy to feel so utterly powerless.

But two very easy things would make this crisis less overwhelming. Firstly, and most importantly, having politicians that put people before profit. And secondly, having politicians capable of delivering coherent messages. We don’t need Johnson’s waffle. We don’t need spin or obfuscation. Just straight answers. Even when that answer is simply, ‘I don’t know’.

Hopefully, by 20 March, we will have some of these answers in relation to schools and exams. We need them. Our children’s mental health depends on them.

Featured image via screengrab and pxfuel

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us