Back-to-school strategy is lazy and flawed

While the ambition to get schools fully operational again by September is necessary and sensible (School subjects may be retaught, dropped or narrowed in England, 2 July), simply to extend the bubble concept as a solution is based on flawed and lazy thinking.

Bubbles have been established and maintained quite successfully with half-sized classes and half-time attendance for limited year groups, especially at primary level. However, there are numerous reasons why this mechanism cannot be scaled up effectively for full-time secondary schooling. Specialist subject staff teach across year groups; support staff serve entire schools; resources such as libraries, IT suites, science labs, tech workshops, music rooms and sports facilities are shared by all years; toilets are used by everyone; and, even with staggered arrival and departure, transport services will be common to all years. Moreover, many families have siblings in different years, and out-of-school activities are cross-year and cross-school.

The way to ensure both safety and educational continuity is not to have an arbitrarily imposed, one-size-fits-all structural solution, but for each school to be allowed to develop and implement detailed protocols for behaviour and actions that are adapted and appropriate to their particular context.
Anthony Side
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

John Crace highlights important issues in Gavin Williamson’s back-to-school plan (The politics sketch, 2 July). The inactivity of the education secretary is evident in his piecemeal approach to the reopening of schools.

I doubt if he has heard of Neil Postman, let alone read his book The Disappearance of Childhood. He should. The author opens his book with these brief words: “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”

Our young people have had their education disrupted through unavoidable circumstances, yet there seems to have been no coherent national crisis management of what is undoubtedly a complex problem. But we are told “Gavin has a plan”. It is just a pity that its substance doesn’t match up to the evident need.

These last few months have been damaging for our children, both in the short term, and I fear with long-term consequences. It is a pity that the quality of leadership from the secretary of state has fallen short when clarity of vision was needed.
Chris McDonnell
Retired headteacher, Staffordshire

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