How dare unions use my children to score political points, asks father-of-three STEPHEN ROBINSON 

When I read in the Mail this week of the main teaching union’s disgraceful tactics to thwart the reopening of classrooms, my heart sank. And I dare say I was not alone.

As the father of three state-educated children – one of them aged seven – I find it difficult to forgive Mary Bousted, the charmless joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), for dismissing younger children as ‘mucky’ spreaders of germs who ‘cry, who wipe their snot on your trousers or on your dress’.

Yes Dr Bousted, they do that and worse, but a parent, carer or anyone with the slightest interest in children sees beyond that. 

Her fellow union leader, Kevin Courtney, reserved his distaste for wicked headteachers who worry deeply about the months of enforced educational deprivation being inflicted on children by their absence from full-time education.

I find it difficult to forgive Mary Bousted, the charmless joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), for dismissing younger children as ‘mucky’ spreaders of germs who ‘cry, who wipe their snot on your trousers or on your dress’, writes STEPHEN ROBINSON

Rather than support these senior teachers in making important and nuanced decisions about risk, Mr Courtney seemed intent on blackmailing them into keeping classrooms empty to score political points against a Government he appears to despise.

His response to the greatest educational challenge in our history was to rally union members to whip up fear and hatred on social media about those who plan to open schools, going on to boast: ‘We will be threatening heads with that.’

How on earth do people who describe young children in these terms end up being connected in any way to the teaching profession?

Her fellow union leader, Kevin Courtney, reserved his distaste for wicked headteachers who worry deeply about the months of enforced educational deprivation being inflicted on children by their absence from full-time education

Her fellow union leader, Kevin Courtney, reserved his distaste for wicked headteachers who worry deeply about the months of enforced educational deprivation being inflicted on children by their absence from full-time education

Education ministers heard recently that reopening schools in 22 European countries has not led to any significant increase in coronavirus infections among children, parents or staff.

Yet Britain’s children are being left behind. Robert Halfon, chairman of the education committee, is right to warn of a ‘potential cascade of mounting social injustice that could last a decade’.

In the face of this and other stark warnings, the response of several mostly Labour-controlled local authorities – including Liverpool, Rochdale, Gateshead, and Brighton and Hove – has been to refuse even to consider the Government’s June 1 target for a partial return of primary schools.

Of course teachers’ welfare matters. And no one is suggesting vulnerable staff members should be forced into the classroom.

Education ministers heard recently that reopening schools in 22 European countries has not led to any significant increase in coronavirus infections among children, parents or staff. Pictured: Charlotte Beyazian head teacher of La Petite Ecole Bilingue in North London, prepares her school for reopening

Education ministers heard recently that reopening schools in 22 European countries has not led to any significant increase in coronavirus infections among children, parents or staff. Pictured: Charlotte Beyazian head teacher of La Petite Ecole Bilingue in North London, prepares her school for reopening

But when the hard-Left Dr Bousted crows that her union has ‘made the running in this crisis’ and privately admits to members that the NEU’s opposition to a June 1 opening is a ‘negotiating position’, anyone can see that it is not welfare that matters to these people – it is politics and how best to exploit the pandemic for their own ends.

The school closures have been hideous for children, particularly the youngest and most disadvantaged. 

Our three, aged seven, 12 and 15, attend different state schools in London. They are lucky: Their schools are well-run with fine teachers who achieve excellent results.

Yet it seems unlikely that either of our secondary-age children will return to school until September. 

By then, they will have been out of their classrooms for almost six months: A lifetime for a child.

Unlike the 700,000 children who, disastrously, are not participating in any learning by email whatsoever, ours are doing classwork and homework set by the teachers. But it is not enough.

Children across the country are painfully isolated, craving contact with their friends. Our 15-year-old daughter and her friends have taken to sending postcards with poems they enjoyed in class and declarations of how much they miss one another.

The head of maths at Radley, a £40,000-a-year public school in Oxfordshire, noted this week that after an Easter holiday devoted to staff training, every timetabled maths lesson in the senior school had gone ahead this term via virtual-classroom technology.

From this, the teacher drew what to me was a painful conclusion: That his students, freed of the distractions of school life, were ‘in an academically stronger position than would have been the case had we not had the school closure’.

Yet Britain's children are being left behind. Robert Halfon, chairman of the education committee, is right to warn of a 'potential cascade of mounting social injustice that could last a decade'. Pictured: Staff La Petite Ecole Bilingue in North London

Yet Britain’s children are being left behind. Robert Halfon, chairman of the education committee, is right to warn of a ‘potential cascade of mounting social injustice that could last a decade’. Pictured: Staff La Petite Ecole Bilingue in North London

Thus, the advantages enjoyed by privileged children have been only multiplied in the shutdown. 

Three-quarters of pupils at fee-paying schools have attended online lessons via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, compared with just 6 per cent of state-educated children. No prizes, then, for guessing who will be bagging the best university places in a few years.

Yet, incredibly, the teaching unions continue to oppose online lessons. The NEU’s new guidelines make for shocking reading. 

While private school teachers – many on reduced salaries – have repurposed their teaching methods, state-school teachers at home on full pay are encouraged by the NEU barely to engage.

Online lessons, declares the union, should be kept ‘to a minimum’ and only take place ‘in exceptional circumstances’.

Well, if this crisis doesn’t count as ‘exceptional circumstances’, what on earth does?

The NEU claims ‘online lessons are not desirable for primary children as the teacher-pupil interaction is not easily replicated’.

There was a time when the likes of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings, two of the Prime Minister's closest allies, plotted to destroy what they called the education 'Blob'

There was a time when the likes of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings, two of the Prime Minister’s closest allies, plotted to destroy what they called the education ‘Blob’

That may be partly true, but it is scarcely a reason for not even trying. Rather than attempt to match the curriculum, teachers are instead urged to resort to ‘bite-sized chunks of work’.

In secondary schools, again teachers should only live-stream lessons from their homes or engage in video-calling in ‘exceptional circumstances’, partly due to the supposed danger that a screengrab might be taken of a staff member.

It is difficult for headteachers to resist the irrational demand that every hypothetical risk be eliminated. If things go wrong, they are ultimately responsible, and they cannot always rely on support from town halls.

A bigger mystery is why Boris Johnson appears so overcome by this obduracy. 

There was a time when the likes of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings, two of the Prime Minister’s closest allies, plotted to destroy what they called the education ‘Blob’.

By the Blob, they meant the combined dead hand of the teaching unions, academic ‘educationists’ and civil servants imposing reactionary socialist ideology in schools.

Yet this Government now seems suddenly cowed while the unions, backed by the new Labour leadership of Sir Keir Starmer, spread alarm about a virus which barely affects children. 

This Government now seems suddenly cowed while the unions, backed by the new Labour leadership of Sir Keir Starmer, spread alarm about a virus which barely affects children

This Government now seems suddenly cowed while the unions, backed by the new Labour leadership of Sir Keir Starmer, spread alarm about a virus which barely affects children

Everyone likes to say the world has changed irrevocably because of Covid-19, and that may turn out to be so.

But new Tory voters, especially those in the north who in December’s election were attracted by Boris Johnson’s ‘boosterism’ and uniquely daring leadership style, will desert him if he embraces the failed politically correct ideology that made them defect from Labour in the first place.

The Blob is back, and senses great opportunities amid the economic carnage and social upheaval of Covid-19. 

Unless Mr Johnson defeats it, voters will desert him – and I will never forget how the teaching unions exploited the pandemic and blighted the chances of my own three children.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

Loading...