Let’s all stand back while we let teachers get their jabs - Christa Ackroyd

I have never agreed with the adage that schooldays are the best days of your life.

There are growing calls for schoolteachers to be vaccinated. (Scott Merrylees).
There are growing calls for schoolteachers to be vaccinated. (Scott Merrylees).

If that were true, we would have left our best days behind us at a very young age. And I still live in hope that my best days are yet to come!

What I eventually realised was that my schooldays were among the most important days of my life. Not just for what I learnt (or is it learned?

I am still obsessive about grammar). But for what it taught me. And that was to conform until I was old enough to think for myself. Sadly, I tried to do that from a very early age. As my very first headmistress told me when I bumped into her more than 40 years later: “You were never easy, Christa. But always interesting.” I’ll take that.

At the tender age of four on my very first day at nursery, I walked out of the school gates at playtime and strolled the two miles home alone whereupon I announced to my mother I had been to school and decided it wasn’t for me.

By that time the search party was out, my policeman father had been called and my mother was mortified as she marched me back to face the music. The same aforementioned headmistress who had been understandably frantic was apologetic to my mother but very cross with me.

Security was upped and she took us into her office to ask why I didn’t want to stay. “Because I was bored,” came my reply. To which my mother answered: “Well I have bad news for you, Christa. Not only are you going to school today but you are going every day for a very long time to come, bored or not. Life isn’t all about having fun.”

How right she was. When home schooling became a new thing a couple of decades ago, my mum’s reaction was one of horror.

“I couldn’t have coped with you all day every day,” she said. “You were too demanding.” Cheers, Mum. But I was and so is every child unless you have the patience of a saint. Which she didn’t and I certainly don’t either. One lesson I did learn was that I couldn’t be a teacher for all the tea in China.

So how on earth have parents coped these past few months? As a friend said about her teenage son, “I can’t even get him to put his dirty clothes in the wash basket let alone ensure he does six hours of online lessons every day.”

My youngest daughter will, I am sure, one day recount with amusement stories of interrupted Zoom calls to important clients, but for now the novelty is definitely wearing a bit thin. Yes, the three-year-old did look rather cute covered in Mummy’s expensive make-up (“I thought she was quiet,” said my daughter) though the drawing on the newly decorated walls didn’t go down so well.

And as for the five-year-old, we have spent the last two years telling her iPads are for special occasions, to be used sparingly and never at the dinner table – only to then expect her to concentrate in front of them for hours a day. She needs to be in school. Teachers know that. The Government knows that and parents certainly know it.

It’s not about the fear that young lives will be damaged. Children are far more resilient than we give them credit for. They all learn at different paces and they will catch up. Teachers will make sure of it. But going to school is not just about educational development.

Children need other children. Teachers need to teach face to face. And parents, particularly those trying to work from home, need time to themselves. No wonder Facebook is full of frazzled parents now looking forward to March 8, when schools might, but only might, reopen.

So here is the thing. Teachers should be made a special case for the vaccination programme. And if that means me at the age of 63 waiting an extra couple of weeks, then so be it. I will just have to stay safe until then. It’s not as if I have anywhere to go.

Our children’s future is more important. Our young ones have somewhere to go and that somewhere is school. No, that does not mean all those who come face to face with the public should be made special cases too.

Shop assistants can wear masks and keep their distance, police are by and large not cooped up for hours on end with large groups of people, especially little people for whom social distancing is one lesson too far.

Delivery drivers, postmen and dustbin workers can do their jobs without being in close contact with those who need their services. Teachers simply can’t.

So here is the maths. (You see, Mrs Williamson, your patience did pay off).

In the UK there are half a million teachers. Our vaccinations are being rolled out superbly at around 300,000 a day. Which means in theory teachers can be vaccinated within two days, within the week of half term at least and in time for a March reopening. So let’s just get on with it.

My grandchildren, your children or grandchildren, are probably the lucky ones. They may all have a computer to help them keep up with lockdown lessons. A third of children do not.

Teachers are still teaching in schools those who are vulnerable or the offspring of key workers, while at the same time trying to teach online.

My head would be spinning. We are in danger of teacher fatigue by the time we get back to school if, as mooted, we are now talking about summer schools to help children catch up.

Of course I want the jab. I want my husband to have the jab. But I bet if you asked most grandparents they would gladly wait a couple of days for the sake of our offspring.

Because we love them. And we know they are losing out. So let’s stop arguing. It isn’t a political decision. Just give the teachers the jab. Not to do so simply doesn’t add up.