Is it Time to Evolve?
Our educational infrastructure plays a vital role in the very fabric of our ‘functional’ societies. There is a wide variety of appreciation and critical analysis on our approaches to education. From Piaget, Margret Mead, to Alfie Kohn and the movement of outdoor learning initiatives across the grass roots. There is no shortage of conversation in how we could make ‘progressive’ strides in the field.
Catherine’s Story reminded me of the quiet voices going unheard within this landscape. It reminded me of all that goes unmeasured, under represented and undervalued in the world of economics. And of the vital role parents, guardians, carers and non profits play, in enabling a society to run ‘smoothly’.
The urgent issue of forced off rolling and the increasing number of school deregistrations during 2020-2021
indicative of problems that need to be faced, if families are to be able make equitable choices in their family’s futures.
“ We did not de-register my youngest daughter because she is a special needs child with an EHCP. Her place is very precious and we would like to think that she would enjoy being there until she’s 18 years old as it has everything to cater to her needs. Special-needs places are incredibly hard to come across and we fought for a long time to get her a place. I’ve written a letter to the head explaining the situation, explaining that I would go to court if necessary, but the last thing I heard was that I’ve been referred to Hampshire County Council ”
Conversations with Educational welfare officers revealed a question mark over why parents were not opting to deregister their children in the face of the threats of fines and prosecution for non attendance. Clearly, again, the issue is more complex than the simple solutions being suggested by those who need to act upon their institutional obligations; Obligations, which to many families feel too rigid in nature and without an appropriate measure of discretion for such exceptional circumstances.
“I don’t think that short period of time that children are allowed off school in ‘exceptional circumstances’ if they’re clinically extremely vulnerable will apply to my daughter, who has autism, global developmental delay and learning difficulties.”
This is impacting the educational equity of a generation of learners.
There were also rumblings of easy solutions to protect those most at risk across social media. These were affirmed by policies which dishonestly create a fractured and compartmentalized idea of what society actually is.
Why can’t we just lasso those most at risk and put one of those infamous protective rings around them? Carry on as normal?
Unbeknown to some, families are made up of interdependent, multi-generational, health diverse parts. All, bizarrely enough, who live and breathe and support each other in order to get on in a demanding world.
“The way it’s affected myself and my husband has been devastating. Every single day, we are talking about ‘what if’. What if it went to court? What if we ARE wrong.. My husbands health conditions are exacerbated by stress, as are mine. We have to keep on top of things for our children but ultimately, we’ve been incredibly depressed, completely ostracized and forgotten. We’ve been so angry with the government and how they gaslight and so angry with society about how they can just think about themselves. We are utterly exhausted, we’re not mad or crazy or overly anxious. We are not scroungers. My husband wants to be in work, I would like my children to be in school. With the chronic health issues I have, I would like a bit of my life back.”
Those ‘most at risk’ also needs to be consistently redefined, as morbidity is often swept aside, as though without implication.
How are those in the educational sector feeling about all of this?
Accounts from educators and leaderships teams, especially during the pandemic, have spoken of the unsustainable management of this crisis they are having to shoulder.
Staff are exhausted and confused about the increased levels of threats they are being asked to endure, without adequate risk mitigations for an airborne virus in their workplaces.
Some don’t recognise their own profession anymore.
Many on the ground are grappling with the pressure of the constant shape shifting of political agendas and the marketization goal posts set in HE and Universities across the UK. Budgets are being drained with an attendance crisis, not only of students, but also of staff.
Precarious contracts are quietly unsettling the sector’s focus.
Head Teachers and principals are now having to walk a path between guidances from the DFE, OFSTED, trusts and Public Health directors.
But who will be liable if a parent brought the safety of their schools into question?
From a psychological standpoint, altering our course in the face of a crisis, takes courage. There is a sense of safety in what we already know and find familiar. Treading grounds unexplored, can leave us yearning for that vocational place we once thought of as ‘home’.
But at what cost?
I asked Catherine what changes she would like to see, to help families like hers feel part of society again.
We know from recent reports that the government got it wrong. Now they have let it rip, it’s really important that schools and local authorities take control. It’s no good relying on the government who only have eyes on the prize. There must be a coming together to provide clean air for schools in the same way as there is clean water.
But more importantly than anything, any family who doesn’t feel safe, any family who feels that they are at risk should be allowed and supported to educate their children and look after themselves without the threat of fines, losing school places or ending up in court.”
Maybe this isn’t a question of reinventing the wheel.
Maybe, figuratively speaking, it is more a question of equipping the bicycle of educational provision with a couple of gears. – Starting with adequate mitigations.
We cannot steepen the hill for those already in need of support.
Is it Time to Evolve?