The issues arising over the last three weeks over exams and assessments have not only highlighted how important it is for our children to be at school, but also how important it is to give them the opportunity to take exams as a means of assessment; exams being a fair and effective way of giving students a chance to show off how hard they have worked and what they have learned. When exams were cancelled this year due to coronavirus, the idea of needing to take an objective approach by using some kind of algorithm is understandable, but, essentially, no computer generated algorithm could take account of a pupil’s work ethic and there were bound to be injustices.
September is fast approaching and parents are preparing for their children going back to school. Some parents are understandably anxious and I would urge these parents to speak to their school head about what is being done to help keep their staff, children and families safe. In June, for example, 1.6 million pupils went back to school with protective measures in place. These measures included ‘bubbles’, extra hand and surface hygiene and minimising face-to-face contact, all of which reduced the risk of transmission. These measures remain important measures in maintaining coronavirus-secure school environments.
The U.K.’ s Chief Medical Officers have confirmed that the risk of children getting coronavirus at school is very low. This is based on extensive international scientific studies. It is absolutely right for them to say that there are no risk-free options and that as parents and teachers, we need to understand the balance of risk to ensure the best outcomes for our children.
Education is fundamental to every single one of us. The success, strength and resilience of individuals, communities and societies are dependent on a solid educational foundation. Admittedly, it is often challenging for parents to persuade their children to knuckle down at school and work hard – children and young people do not always see the end game of the opening up of life choices and opportunities that education brings. But education is not just about choice and opportunity, it builds up self-confidence and independence which will last a lifetime.
A good education is not just about facts and knowledge; it is about providing our children with tools for the future, learning from failure, building resilience and is essential for a child’s stability, development and wellbeing. Children and young people across the country have experienced unprecedented disruption to their education as a result of coronavirus and we know that those from the most vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds will be among those hardest hit. As a community, we have all worked hard to keep contraction rates of coronavirus low and in Hastings and Rye, we must now balance the minimal health risk against the long-term damage to our children if they do not return to school. We need to show our children our resilience and confidence in the choices we make.