Schools will continue to protect the vulnerable even if the government won’t

by Tom Clements

Alec Shelbrooke didn’t vote to extend free school meals to children during school holidays because he was wary of “adding (an) additional administrative burden to schools”. Whilst it is always nice to hear concerns about teacher workload from a Member of Parliament, especially one that has consistently voted in favour of real term cuts to school funding forcing us to do more with less; it is important to expose this sentiment for the offensive nonsense that it is. 

The simple fact is that schools have stepped up throughout this crisis to support families in need. Without fuss or complaint, thousands of school staff, both teaching and non-teaching, have gone above and beyond to limit the impact of the crisis on the children that we are fortunate to serve. 

Throughout lockdown, schools remained open so that vulnerable children were able to continue to learn. Lessons were taught, independent study spaces were staffed and hot meals were provided. At the height of the crisis, teachers, support staff and dinner ladies put the children’s interests above their own. They provided a sense of normality and safety for children who really needed it. 

When the crisis turned the world upside down, schools transformed into community centres in order to offer the support that their families needed. Advice on applying for universal credit for families thrown into unemployment by the ripples of lockdown. Food parcels ordered, packaged and delivered to families who needed them. School budgets squeezed to provide laptops and learning materials to children who needed to study. Free school meal vouchers ordered despite a website that crashed at the slightest demand. 

When September brought an insistence that schools opened in spite of fears of a second wave, schools answered the call. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work, writing contingency plan after contingency plan, to create an environment that was safe for children to learn and staff to work. All of this done in the face of ever changing, and often contradictory, government advice that was often released on a Friday night in a meek effort to avoid scrutiny. Eventually, thanks to the efforts of school leaders and estates staff, children were welcomed back on time. 

And now we are back, school staff have ensured that the experience of children has been as normal as possible. Year group bubbles, staggered starts, face coverings at social times and countless other safety measures put in place to allow schools to reopen have made things different. But, thanks to the kindness and warmth of teachers and teaching assistants, the children have been able to take these changes in their stride. Learning has continued, friendships have blossomed and the simple joys of childhood have restarted. 

This has happened in spite of the increased demands that the reopening of schools has placed on staff. Remote learning planned alongside normal lessons to ensure that children who are isolating or shielding don’t miss out on the learning they are entitled to. Catch up lessons offered to ensure that gaps grown during lockdown don’t grow to a chasm of underachievement in the future. Covering lessons taught by teachers who have been forced to self isolate due to proximity to positive tests. School leaders having to learn the differences between common coughs and colds and symptoms of Covid in order to decide who can stay and who should isolate. School budgets being stretched ever thinner to pay for cleaning products and facemasks with no expectation of that money being replaced. 

Which brings us to last week, and the refusal of the government to provide for the 3.4 million children living in poverty. Although it was good to see the issue having the national prominence it deserved, you shouldn’t think that schools were waiting for the government to step in. Schools have been raising money for the families hit hardest by the crisis since September. Staff at my school raised over £5000 through a virtual marathon but ours is in no way an isolated example. Up and down the country, food parcels have been bought and sent out; thousands of shopping bags being delivered to the children who need it most. Up and down the country, food parcels have been bought and sent out; thousands of shopping bags being delivered to the children who need it most. And this week, whilst MP’s have discussed and prevaricated, schools have been getting ready. The last act of a long half term by many teachers will have been to deliver a bag of shopping that will be to prevent a week of hunger for a family. 

So whilst Alec Shelbrooke, Phillip Davies and countless other Tory MPs will spend half term scraping the barrel of their conscience finding excuses for not supporting Marcus Rashford, school staff will keep going. We will continue to do whatever it takes, without judgement or complaint, to support the children who need it most. Not because we want to but because the last decade of Tory austerity and negligence means that we have to.

Tom Clements is a history and politics teacher in Leeds

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24 Responses to “Schools will continue to protect the vulnerable even if the government won’t”

  1. A.J. says:

    Gosh, aren’t our teachers wonderful? What on earth would we do without them?

  2. A.J. says:

    The lefties invariably adore anything that purports to be ‘free’, don’t they? – especially when they’re in nice, cushy public sector jobs. As someone once said about US health-care, if you think it’s expensive now, just wait until it’s free. At least, though, it gives the budding voter at the next election a fair idea of how the country might be run under a Labour government. Some black footballer says jump and they only stop to ask how high. Then there’s the ever-present demand for ‘free’ money, on top of ‘cheap’ money. How much longer can it realistically go on like this? Labour would presumably like a nice ‘circuit-breaker’ over Christmas and New Year, thus putting paid to goodness knows how many more jobs.
    Virtually everyone involved in the ‘education’ racket hates the so-called ‘Conservative’ or ‘Tory’ party. I don’t care for them much myself, but Labour – the official Opposition, lest we forget, is as bankrupt of ideas as the American Democrats. Teachers, by some mad irony, never seem to learn anything. I was one myself once. So was one of my daughters. No longer, thank heaven.
    Anyway, this is a nice bit of virtue-signalling as far as it goes – but it’s far, far more because it convinces ‘the working class’ that they are victims as per usual, and only the lefties can fight the good fight on their behalf. More clientage on the council estates. More gratitude. More potential votes. Some of us saw through this patronising nonsense years ago.

  3. A.J. says:

    By the way, I see in some newspaper – so I can’t swear that it’s true – that a free market fast food chain is offering meals of some description. What will Jamie Oliver have to say about that, I wonder?

  4. A.J. says:

    I note Rashford was involved in the BLM nonsense back in the summer. That figures. Yet more Cultural Marxism. Ben Bradley probably has a point when he talks about brothels and crack dens – Britain is scarcely the same place Major Attlee knew when doing his bit in the East End. Poverty now is not having the latest i-gadget/pair of trainers/ whatever, not actually suffering with malnutrition or having to share a single pair of shoes with your brother. Christ, my wife grew up in a house without an indoor bathroom in the 1970s – and middle-class undergraduates at her University (where she worked hard and got a First) couldn’t believe their privileged little ears.
    All this is celebrity-driven bollocks, riding on the back of shysters like Bob Geldof and has nothing to do with the real world of politics and economics.

  5. Joun says:

    The way school girls don’t want boys who say they’re girls can go in their toilets when they’re changing , and the teachers tell the girls stop complaining

  6. A.J. says:

    Now we have the sweet little Rahman girl from West Hampstead in the ‘Daily Mail’, whining – at 17 – about no food in the house. ‘Daily Mail’ readers suggest she might think of getting a job.

  7. Anne says:

    Yes, schools have done a wonderful job – as, of course, the food banks and many local businesses which have set up to help with food for needy children.
    What I could never understand is why the track and trace was ever given to a private firm, costing 12 billion, when many nurses and health care practitioners have experience in contact tracing. The budget for public health was transferred to local authorities – not a good move because in times of demand on services it often the public health budget which is cut. However, nurses have experience in this field – this job should have gone to public health. Also, many nurses have experience in the administration of immunisations – health visitors, schools nurses, practice nurses, community nurses, nurse practitioners – teams could be established in localities to administer a mass vaccination programme. This should be organised now.

  8. John P Reid says:

    Labour has to ask
    What’s the difference when A cultural
    Society, and a socially Conservative
    society ,that is defined by its values?
    Social and cultural conservative are different things, wanting a Christian value society
    The old saying shows respect for others cultural conservatism
    “When in Rome “with a Buddhist country the morals should be respected there
    Virtues have no need for stopping a limited channel of ignoring others thinking
    Chris lasch books on the Narcasism of individualism
    The states first task is to defend its own citizens
    Post liberalism Is there a way for it to become more adoptive via peter Hitchens and by Kate hoey , We need to develop ecenomics and won the argument
    Some traditions are noted for being there in distinctive in being there in their
    place Or the when in Rome when respecting other cultures abroad
    When people ,if people See things in left /right tribal values terms when traditional values did for the first time many who didn’t are right because historical Tories that are attached to that its a value the road somewhere the difference the anywhere’s
    Maintain the limits by the minority having power by resources
    , then the anywhere’s are the 26% The anywhere’s aNd the cultism of socialism
    Is replaced by liberalism And Or the conservative way of Keep things the way they are, with the values of The significant power of the establishment as the remain and the not leave for power to stop.brexIt Brigade

  9. A.J. says:

    Perhaps some of the young ladies at Benenden – too thick even to pick up an Oxford English Dictionary to seek out the origins and meaning of a particular word – could pick up the tab instead of having that extra skiing holiday this year. Or do they still take lessons in domestic science? Maybe they could set up soup kitchens.

  10. A.J. says:

    ‘The Guardian’, needless to say, has picked this one up and is running with it. A newspaper, as Philip Larkin once said, written by comprehensive school teachers for comprehensive school teachers – well, something like that anyway. Mind you, one of their lot does note the sheer bloody awfulness of most English food (avoided by the appalling Jay Rayner?), reminding me of the odd school lunch I was obliged to eat circa 1967. Beetroot and baked beans seemed to have something to do with it.
    It all fits neatly into the long-running ‘Guardian’ narrative, which includes – as it does every autumn – balls about the cash-strapped NHS, ‘child-poverty’ etc. etc., now mingled with juicy titbits like ‘institutional racism’, courtesy of poor Stephen Lawrence’s mother. This is the same newspaper, by the way, that told its readership there would be no war in 1914… Busy now cuddling up to Starmer, of course, the Jew-baiting beardie having proved too rich for their blood…

  11. A.J. says:

    Bugger me, now we’ve got some Labour peer whining and muttering. I did five worrying years as a single parent – made sure the child got food even if I didn’t and paid for her school meals out of the generous benefits I received (under John Major’s government).
    It’s pretty clear that our absurd Prime Minister will cave in on this one.

  12. Vern says:

    The writer of this piece of fiction has a very different view of how schools coped and provided during lockdown. My kids schools were useless, bereft of ideas and found wanting all at the kids expense. This is in Labour’s Birmingham I hasten to add

  13. A.J. says:

    Did you know that Coronavirus can survive upon the surface of a left-wing conscience for up to six months?

  14. A.J. says:

    More sound and fury over this in today’s ‘Daily Mail’. Surely it can only be hours – even minutes now – before the government caves in to populism – yes, I said populism – usually depicted as an exclusively right-of-centre vice, a phrase much beloved of Remainers, Guardianistas and those who have a visceral hatred for Trump, Farage, Johnson etc. etc.
    Identify the truly vulnerable in British society and make sure they’re looked after, but only after careful costing – a failure which has cost this country dear since the foundation of the Welfare State – most especially the NHS.
    Johnson and his chums are simply not astute enough to see how this was always going to play out with a fickle and sentimental Joe Public, who loves kiddies and doggies.

  15. John Reid says:

    Ed Miliband convinced the Party we lost in 2010 as it wasn’t left wing enough

    A corbyn convinced the Party we lost in 2015 as it wasn’t left wing enough

    Corbynites were saying of 2019 defeat
    we lost as it wasn’t left wing enough

    Yet the middle class liberal remainers who wanted Starmer as leader thought he’d be different as he’s not If Emily Thornberry has won the leadership we’d be 20% ahead now without realising the whole The working class need to be told what’s good for them due to their own stupidity

  16. A.J. says:

    A good day to bury bad news? A good day for Corbyn – and one of his Muslim chums – to look shifty and shame-faced? No, forget the shame part of it, that wouldn’t apply, would it? Yet how come it’s a ‘£300, 000 council flat’? I had no idea that a price could be fixed to council properties (this is in the ‘Daily Mail’ by the way, so draw your own conclusions); maybe that comes of my never having lived in London.
    Then there’s the anti-Jewish outrage – I have Jewish cousins thus an interest in that particular can of worms.
    Rentoul in the ‘Independent’ wonders why Labour aren’t 20 points ahead in the polls!
    Rashford, I suspect, is already being lined up for New Year’s honours…

  17. Tafia says:

    This article is so ridiculous that initially I thought it was one of Atul’s.

  18. Tafia says:

    The brutal facts of the matter are simply one of targeting & delivery.

    Tory Position:- The problem is not solely those of free school meals and therefore giving vouchers to those again will not help children of parents who have had their hours severely and suddenly reduced and thus are experiencing short-term hardship. Therefore the most effective way is to give the money to Local Authorities and food charities as they are far better positioned to feed those in genuine need.

    Labour Position:- Give the parents of all children in receipt of free school meals vouchers again. And that’s it.

    (My position for what it’s worth:- Open handful of schools in each area up each day during the holidays and maybe Reservist Centres and village halls for a couple of hours in the middle of the day and give any child that wants it some soup, a basic sandwich and maybe a piece of fruit, with some sort of option for those with vegan, nut, gluten and religious requirements)

  19. A.J. says:

    Corbyn suspended – Labour steps into one dog’s mess after another. Never mind about Marcus ‘can’t stop smiling’ Rashford’s ‘free’ school meals, break open the champagne. Yet others – like Starmer – folded their arms, sat on their fat backsides and said little or nothing.
    Johnson must think all his birthdays have come at once.

  20. A.J. says:

    So, it seems that Tom ‘Saint’ Clement might have scored an own goal.

    Tafia’s proposal seems reasonable enough to me.

    As Philip Larkin said of teachers, underworked and overpaid.

    My years in a staffroom didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

  21. Tafia says:

    Anne, What I could never understand is why the track and trace was ever given to a private firm, costing 12 billion

    usual dozy ‘world passing you by’ place again. Tracking requires a working App (complete with a small licensing fee paid to Apple and Google for every phoine that downloads it). Because the ‘Tech’ department of the NHS – NHS-X gave the government guarantees that it could deliver and promptly failed miserably after spending 1bn in research and development, admitting that despite it’s best effort, it couldn’t. This, as a reasonably bright chimpanzee knows, was discussed at great length in Parliament – including in the Chamber at PMQs and various statements AND at a Select Committee – which was televised and in which Dido Harding and one of the heads of PHE made the MPs present look like retarded three-year-olds because they had absolutely no idea what they were on about.

    Tracing was also trialled at local level by several local authorities – all failed miserably. People refused to comply, refused to give full details, etc etc. TheLocal Auithorities now just concentrate of the contacts that the tracking people cannot reach after a day of trying.

    The main problem – highlighted by all sides of the coin, is public compliance. For starters, to be considered effective, you need 80% fo the popualtion of phone owners to have downloaded the App and be using it all the time. Not one country in Europe has achieved that – not a single one. (In fact not one globally has which is why S Korea and Singapore are toying with the idea of a sort of 3.4.5.g bracelet that will be registered to an individual that their entire populations will have to wear).

    Within Europe, data protection is causing major problems with effectiveness. To comply, there is no direct link from a phone number to the individual that has the App to the T&T call centres. It’s encrypted so that your identity is protected – that means if you refuse to acknowledge the alert in your phone, there is no way they can identify who you are – they can’t even identify your phone. If you answer their call and refuse to comply, they have no idead who they are talking to or what your real phone number is to even attempt to track you down. Data protection and GDPR has so hampered something that should be a doddle, that several european countries have now abandoned theior Apps completely and turned them off, relying on the fact that they have mandatory ID cards and when you are tested it is recorded in the government database and they can identify an individual and use the police force them to comply whether they want to or not.

    Of the major countries in Europe, WHO regularly praises two for the effectiveness of what they have achieved – Germany and the UK, and the UK now has one of the highest per capita download rates in the world and the second highest in Europe.

    We mange to track and trace a combined average of 60% of all people who teest positive and all the people they have been in contact with. That is actually outstanding and of the major nations, only Germany (narrowly) beats us and their system is now failing precisely because it is decentralised to local level and their infection rate is now to high (As Prof Vallance pointed out last week – for a country with a population our sizer, once you get above 5,000 new cases a day, you T& T system will start to fail. Germany that would be about 7,000 a day – they are now way past that and guess wjhat? The wheels are coming off).

    You can find all the data on the internet regarding the effectiveness of all the countries in Europe. Of the major ones (Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Russia, Poland, Belgium, Holland etc) we are head and shoulders above everyone except Germany – and if they continue to decline at their current rate we’lll have overtaken them by Xmas at the latest. Some – such as France, are utterly useless at it (they’ve even asked Serco to look at putting the system they use in UK into place their).

    AJ – I had no idea that a price could be fixed to council properties (this is in the ‘Daily Mail’ by the way, so draw your own conclusions); maybe that comes of my never having lived in London. All council assets have a book value. How do you think they work out what it’s worth for Right-To-Buy.. But either way, there is absolutely no way that that Begum could have got a flat that big, when she had no kids, and wasn’t even registered homeless or with any special needs, in less than six months onm the list in a Local Authority with over 8,000 families on who have been on the waiting list for over a year and hundreds homeless living in overnight sghe;ters also on the list. Incidentally, UC claimants currently receive a £20 per week Covid ‘top-up’ payment. As soon as this is over they will all lose that.

  22. Anne says:

    Heard you are having difficulty managing your 5 jobs ‘Dom” and yet you can find time to write on this lowly Labour site – we are truly blessed. I understand one of your jobs was offered to Mrs May who has, of course, declined on the grounds she will not work with you. Now, dear Dom rejection must be hard for you – now stop crying, but wasn’t it Mrs May who described your party the ‘nasty party.’ Living up to that name as usually Dom. Now please try and be, at least respectful, and no bad language.

  23. Tafia says:

    So yet again Anne, you show yourself to have absolutely no idea what is going on in your party, what it’s policies are, or even the chimpanzee-level basics of how the NHS is run.

    I bet you are that thick you think that a two week lockdown that was suggested by SAGE (as one of a range of possible measures – not the only one) was to stop the virus when in fact if you read the minutes (all published on the web) it was not put forward as an idea to stop the virus – quite contrary. – it takes around 6-8 weeks of total shutdown to get it to level off before it will start to fall, it was put forward as an idea to allow the NHS a bit of breathing space to re-organise the tracing system and that is all.

    But listening to the dullards of the Labour Party, they seem to think it was put forward asthe only solution, and to fight the virus – when both are not true and would pnly be believed by someone who can’t even be arsed to read what SAGA & NERVTAG actually said and why.

    As Chris Whitty said (I take it you know who he is and what his role in this is) – there are no good options, just a range of bad ones and the government has to pick which is least worst, taking into account the virus, the NHS and the economy.

  24. Anne says:

    Now then Dom – just found another job for you – special adviser to Nigel – he is starting a new party – just up your street with your pleasant language and nice manner – you could be the front man. Your chance of joining Trump now looks unlikely. Best of luck with the job interview – sure you will knock em dead.

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