After returning to school earlier this week as a 15-year-old pupil, the notion that the government is seeing schools as a petri dish where herd immunity can be studied, sampled and scrutinised is becoming increasingly evident (Editorial, 4 January). The government has a long litany of failures when it comes to protecting our schools and colleges: a scandalous shortage of testing equipment, inadequate provision of ventilation and now a vaccine rollout lagging behind in the 12-15 age group. This is a time for real leadership, yet this government seems to be unable to implement the basic public health measures to keep our schools, colleges and pupils safe.
I’ve had to self-isolate after contracting Omicron, and was therefore signed off sick by my college (Heads warn of weeks of Omicron disruption in English schools, 3 January). As one of the many teachers in this situation, and with a specialism in English, I’d like to raise a concern about the education secretary’s use of language. The problem of staff being off sick or in self-isolation has been described by Nadhim Zahawi (and consequently elsewhere) as one of “absenteeism”.
I’m happy to accept that I’ve been absent from work, but a quick Google search will remind one that absenteeism describes “the practice of regularly staying away from work or school without good reason”. Could this be another example of the trickle-down of Britannia Unchained thinking from the government?
If the government’s decision to direct secondary school pupils to wear masks in classrooms is to help mitigate the infectiousness of Omicron, I am confused by Nadhim Zahawi’s decision to ask schools to double up classes to cope with staff shortages. While Mr Zahawi’s own experience was in the independent sector with small class sizes, perhaps it has escaped his notice that doubling up in a state school classroom is likely to result in 60 pupils sitting in very close proximity. I wonder whether he has been paying sufficient attention in lessons given by scientific advisers.
Pett, East Sussex