The Secret Teacher | Please don’t send your children to school unless you really have to

A classroom with a logo of a secret teacher
The Secret Teacher

We made it. These are the words on every teacher’s mind this week.

Having ‘made it’ refers to getting through to the half term break. It’s a week of no lessons after one of the most trying half terms of most teachers’ careers. Of course, there will be plenty to do (half terms are often just catch up weeks) but it’s a joy to have some mental distance from the intensity of home learning and online teaching. It’s also a time when I will be able to properly limit my contact with other people – a luxury I have not been afforded throughout this lockdown.

School attendance and entitled parents

Which takes me on to an issue that has been plaguing my mind over the last few weeks: school attendance.

While most children are learning from home, a significant number of children are in school. Many vulnerable children rightfully have a place in an environment where they can hopefully feel safe and secure for a few hours. Any decent teacher would not begrudge them a place. It’s part of our duty to help the most vulnerable and try to widen the opportunities of those from the harshest backgrounds.

However, worryingly, there are a number of rather entitled parents who feel that their children should be in school no matter what. I’m talking, in the most part, about certain privileged people (and it almost always is the middle class parents) who feel their work is ‘essential’ when it really is not. I’ve had requests from: a BBC journalist who normally works from home, housewives in million pound houses, fashion designers, and architects. Yet cleaners, police officers, nurses, plumbers, and electricians have not requested a place. It seems that the guidance is just too wide and too open to abuse.

Parents getting smarter at playing the game

During the first lockdown, the list of ‘key workers’ wasn’t exactly narrow. Financial services were listed and I had a pawnbroker demanding a place. The guidance was very clear that both parents must be unable to work from home to allow for school based provision. That has not changed at my school. However, some parents have also become far smarter at playing the game. Previously, my school had around 30 children in from a possible 550. Now, almost 150 kids are attending every day. It seems quite a few parents are taking it far less seriously than before, risking not only the families of teachers but entire communities.

The government has allowed this situation to happen and must take responsibility. However, certain individuals should be taking a hard look at themselves and the possible consequences of their actions. With no news on vaccinations for teachers and a touted schools reopening date of 8 March, where is the protection for school staff and our families?

I do hope that we can all get back to full classrooms soon, but the more we mix in large groups, the less chance there is of that happening. So, this is a plea from a teacher: if you have a child and can work from home, please do. You’ll be helping us all in the long run.

Featured image via Wikimedia/LabPluto 123

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