Since the 1870s when Britain stopped sending children down chimneys, that country has maintained its commitment to caring for the youth. As of Monday, when it became known that all schools had to close in mid-February at the earliest, this principle has now been called into question.
It is clear to me and other parents like me that our children are quickly becoming third-class citizens. Their education, rights, future and wellbeing – not to mention their mental health – have been treated as if they were subordinate to everyone else during this pandemic.
It's not just my opinion. It is a fact borne out by the actions of the teachers' unions, whose primary goal is not the well-being of the children but a desire to turn the pandemic into political capital – and by a Labor Party with the same selfish, short-sighted agenda. as well as a government burdened with impossible decisions.
At every stage, it seems, children were an afterthought. The priority has been to protect the elderly and vulnerable from the worst effects of the disease, and it is right that those who suffer the most are those to whom we protect the most.
At every stage, it seems, children were an afterthought. The priority has been protecting the elderly and vulnerable from the worst effects of the disease, writes Sarah Vine
But not at the expense of others and especially not at the expense of an entire generation that is so important to the future prospects and morals of this nation.
And yet the message we send to our young people is clear and simple: their lives don't matter.
As the mother of two teenagers – one graduated from high school this year and the other graduated from GCSE – that thought fills me with a mixture of anger and heartbreak. I'm by no means one of those parents of rainbow unicorn snowflakes, but God, I'm sorry for the plagues.
They cannot go to school, use a library, see their friends, play sports, or do extracurricular activities. You can't even get a job because there aren't any thanks to the lockdown.
The only thing that kept her going was passing the exams that year and the excitement of moving to sixth grade or university. Now that prospect has been taken from them. The exams have been canceled and there will be some form of teacher assessment instead.
The decision to sacrifice them may "follow science" but remains a mystery to me. Psychologically, it's extremely harmful. As strange as it may seem, exams have motivated them – the knowledge that they should be tested and have the opportunity to prove themselves.
Indeed, for those struggling with online learning – like so many – and whose predicted grades have fallen as a result, the chance to make up lost ground on the exams was a glimmer of hope.
Take that away and what's the point of getting out of bed in the morning? As a friend's daughter said to me, "It's like nobody cares anymore."
Since the 1870s, when Britain stopped sending children down chimneys, that country has maintained its commitment to caring for the youth, says Sarah Vine (Image: two chimney sweeps)
Well I do. As did my mother, who called me from her home in Italy in a state of fear. Again, she's not a sentimentalist, but on this occasion, and most unusually because she's the most level-headed woman, she spits out thumbtacks.
She scares the idea that children and their own grandchildren shouldn't play a role. The view that schooling is not a central issue – as important as access to health care or food – is incomprehensible.
In their view, teachers are key workers, and schools are just as important as hospitals. And she's right.
My children are incredibly lucky. You're safe, warm, and full, with your own rooms, laptops, decent WiFi, and food in the fridge. They find their parents deeply irritating, but we are not violent or otherwise abusive.
Unfortunately this is not the case with every child in this country. And for them, training is not only useful, it is a lifeline.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, pictured above. The point is, you can't just put childhood dreams on hold. Nobody gets a second childhood, says Sarah Vine (file photo)
School offers them refuge from problems at home; it offers them an escape from the bad hand that fate has given them. The adults they meet at school are often the only ones they can trust.
Education gives them the opportunity to escape statistical opportunities and invent their future according to their own hopes and dreams.
The point is, you can't just put childhood dreams on hold. Nobody gets a second childhood. Nobody will be 15 or 17 years old again; Once it's gone, it's gone.
Therefore, it is not enough for unions and politicians to just shrug their shoulders and say they have no choice.
Yes, we have to contain the spread of the virus. But we cannot do that at the expense of young life.
And we must have an appropriate plan to repair the damage being done to the younger generation, who through no fault of their own, face an increasingly bleak future.
A family in Knutsford, Cheshire watch Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver a televised address to the nation from 10 Downing Street in London on Monday
When it comes to protecting teachers, as so many claim, that's fine. Let's put her at the top of the queue for vaccinations.
Many of them are young and therefore not at serious risk from the virus. But for those over 50, the concern is understandable. Certainly it is not beyond the power of the government to vaccinate all who need it, as we do with NHS frontline workers.
There are roughly half a million teachers in the UK – it would only take a few days to vaccinate the most vulnerable and, if necessary, family members. I am convinced that older people like my mother would be willing to screen for a few more weeks or even months if that meant that their grandchildren could go back to the classroom.
And if a child or adolescent happens to be living with a vulnerable adult, you should also prioritize them for vaccination.
It's not like we don't have the resources to identify the people at risk. You can't buy coffee these days without it being registered somewhere. Let's use this data wisely and strategically.
Charlotte Rose is helping one of her home schooled children in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire on Tuesday
A close-up of an Oxford / AstraZeneca 10-dose vaccine bottle that was kept by a nurse at Pontcae medical practice in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales on Monday
And if we have to call in the army to help staff schools, so be it. If we need to get rid of the summer holidays so kids can catch up, we should.
The schools would understand. I have spoken to several over the past few months and none have expressed anything other than dismay at the situation.
Teachers are as desperate as the rest of us, if not more, as they are seeing the effects of school withdrawal firsthand.
Eating disorders, self-harm, alcohol and drug abuse are on the rise in young people. And the longer they stay trapped at home, the worse it gets.
What is missing is a coherent, viable strategy for dealing with the virus in the long term. Even if we have a successful vaccination program, this thing will be with us for a while, possibly forever.
We just can't close schools – or society in general – indefinitely. We have to strain every tendon and explore every possibility of opening schools and keeping them that way.
Yes, we have to protect the NHS. Yes we have to save lives. But for God's sake, let's find a way that kids won't forget – or send the next generation back down that metaphorical chimney.
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