Left: Joint General Secrataries of the NEU, Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted. Photo: @neunion / Twitter. Right: Boris Johnson announces lockdown. Photo: Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked at bottom of article Left: Joint General Secrataries of the NEU, Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted. Photo: @neunion / Twitter. Right: Boris Johnson announces lockdown. Photo: Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

The government’s delay on schools has shown how little they care about pupils and teachers and we’re sick and tired of it, writes Isabella, a secondary school student

There is now going to be a full national lockdown including school closures until mid-February. This shows that our teachers were right and the government has been wrong.

But as usual, it’s come way too late. This should have been done in September, or at least before some primary schools opened up today. The government has again taken last minute action after initially digging its heels on opening schools and going ahead with summer exams, causing students and teachers and our families unnecessary anxiety.

What school has been like under Covid

There’s been a sense of unease in our classroom since we went back to school in September. The usual energy and boisterousness of a teenage classroom has now subsided. We don’t talk about Covid. But it’s written on our faces as we exchange glances and note that yet another of our classmates is missing. We all wonder whether it’s the ‘’rona.’

I am sickened by images of perfectly socially-distanced classrooms on social media, a million miles away from the reality in my school and others all over the country. I have learned what ‘propaganda’ means.

We are shoulder to shoulder, the only exceptions being the empty spaces left by conspicuously absent classmates. We move around the classroom to sit with our mates, for the most part we ignore the seating plan until the supply teacher tells us go back to our seats. But supply teachers don’t know us and have not yet earned the respect of the class. This means we sit where we like and that means that there are asymptomatic children spreading the virus in school because seating plans which are used for Track and Trace are inaccurate.

Often only one or two members of our close social circle are sent to self-isolate, leaving the rest of us to wonder if we have caught the virus and taken it home to our families. But we don’t speak of it. It is unspeakable.

Only a few kids dotted around the class wear face coverings and the majority of those who do wear them, wear them incorrectly; under their noses, under their chins, I have even seen them on foreheads and over eyes. There are conflicting attitudes in school amongst the kids. Most of us are quietly terrified but there are always those kids who seem utterly oblivious and who think it’s all just a big joke. Maybe they just deal with it in a different way. The teachers insist on doors and windows being open. It’s freezing. I can’t feel my toes.

We must go to school for the sake of our education and mental health but fear is not good for mental health. Fear that I will take Covid home to my mum. The teacher asks me a question but I wasn’t listening. I am cold. I am frightened. I wonder why I am still here. Why this insanity is still going on. Why everybody dismisses us kids. They say we are not affected by the virus. Yet an 8 year old died last week. But it’s ok apparently because he had a ‘pre-existing health condition.’ I hope I don’t have any health conditions I don’t know about.

Our teachers can’t lie to us. We know we shouldn’t be here and they know we shouldn’t be here. But the government won’t listen to the science. They won’t listen to the teachers. They won’t listen to anyone.

And then a breakthrough, it is announced that secondary schools will move online and won’t be re-opening for face to face teaching until 18th January. But I still don’t see what will be different when we return. And now finally it is announced that teaching will remain online until at least mid-February.

We’ve had enough of being treated like we know nothing. We’re in 2021. We all have smartphones and social media. We know we are all being lied to. We know it’s not safe. I trust my teachers but I do not trust the government because they put the economy before our safety. We are sick of hearing how schools are ‘Covid secure’ as though there is some secret pact between the government and the virus that it will not enter schools.

And now teachers are being demonised by the newspapers for being ‘lazy.’ I am angry. They are anything but lazy. It is the government that’s lazy. Lazy and arrogant. Our teachers have been jumping through hoops to keep us safe since the pandemic started. Some of them work 10-12 hour days. I am grateful our teachers for taking a stand, I fully support them and thank them for winning right now. They are safeguarding us kids. They are safeguarding families and the community. They are also safeguarding the NHS.

You cannot rely on the government to keep us all safe but you can trust the people you entrust your children too every day. Schools are now going to be closed, but we have to fight to ensure that every student has access to online learning and that in mid-February schools only reopen if it’s safe to. Please, support our teachers. They have our best interests at heart.

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