Don’t let Boris Johnson and Gavin Williamson fail children in lockdown – Jayne Dowle

SIX weeks or March ‘til lockdown ends? Easter or next Christmas? Who are we to believe when the over-promising Prime Minister says one thing and his hardline Cabinet Minister Michael Gove says another?

Step back from the cacophony of noise emitting from Westminster and consider this; it is inconceivable to think that after almost 12 months in charge of tackling a global pandemic, the Government still can’t get its communications strategy right.

If it was important to communicate effectively, and not shy away from uncomfortable truths in March last 
year, it’s absolutely imperative now 
as we face undetermined weeks, if 
not months, under a third national lockdown.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

I was the first to jump on holes in the strategy during the initial lockdown, but given the Government’s performance since New Year dawned, I’m longing for the old clarity of ‘we’re all in this together’.

Schools across the country have been plunged into chaos as a result of the new lockdown.

Labour may have taken the view that the best form of Opposition is constructive opposition, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that there’s more than enough dissent coming from within.

One of the first rules of communicating a company message is to ensure that all the company is on message. This can hardly be said of our government, which agreed on only one thing – the need for Brexit. Now that is done, the cracks are opening into chasms.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on the issue of schools, colleges and universities. Parents, teachers and pupils are literally in despair. This newspaper is calling for the resignation of the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, and rightly so.

Continuing to allow him responsibility for the futures of millions of children and young people is deeply irresponsible of the Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson is ultimately responsible for the schools shambles, writes Jayne Dowle.

Send primary school pupils to school for one day? How do you even begin to explain this to an already-anxious five or six-year-old?

Frighten secondary school pupils, saying that the Army is being called in after Christmas to operate on-site Covid testing, then completely shelve the plan overnight?

Duck out of negotiating with teaching unions to ensure that online learning is effective and reaches every possible student, instead leaving it to phone providers and the BBC to patch up myriad holes in what can’t even be described as a plan?

Stand back whilst universities extort thousands of pounds from students for courses which are not being taught as promised and accommodation which hasn’t even been slept in?

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is fighting to keep his job.

Whilst I’m not defending Mr Williamson in the slightest, I would also like Boris Johnson to pay heed. He should be asking, indeed demanding, that his Education Secretary anticipate and prepare for every possible eventuality as the pandemic twists and turns.

Instead the Prime Minister, with a brood of children of his own, seems to put every demographic before the young when it comes to emergency planning, testing and vaccine roll-out. Our children, who are the future, are considered last time after time.

It’s a simple equation; children need educating, most parents need children to be in school so they can work or care for elderly or vulnerable relatives.

Why not then prioritise the vaccination of teachers and school staff to ensure that this situation can be protected and herd immunity set in motion? Less than a million (945,805 according to official figures) people work in state schools in England, including 453,813 teachers. How many million doses of vaccine does the Government say we have again?

All scholls have been shut as a result of the new lockdown.

What does it tell us about the mindset of the fathers in charge if their only default option is to close all schools and educational establishments, except nurseries, and send youngsters back home to the care of their parents, with the burden typically falling on mothers to supervise home-schooling, mental health and wellbeing? Or not, as the case may be.

However, this is to digress. What is absolutely crucial is the fact that most of our children will now have had their learning trashed for almost a full year.

So many will never, ever regain the ground they have missed. I grieve for the teenagers I know whose GCSEs and A-levels will now be cancelled, with no clear replacement devised. Surely, the Prime Minister should have instructed Mr Williamson to have a back-up plan in place, ready to announce and implement.

Yet, once again, the Education Secretary has fallen short. As the British Army says, fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Parliamentary careers may rise and fall, but our children and young people have no power to alter their situation and no second chances. If nothing else, make them the priority from now on.

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.