The Easter holidays are over, and schools are back (online at least) for the summer term. Parliament has returned from recess to continue to uphold its constitutional functions that have remained unbroken since the time of the Black Death in 1349. The Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, added to the sense of measured national resilience by saying that, “thanks to modern technology, even I have moved on from 1349, and I am glad to say that we can sit to carry out these fundamental constitutional functions”.
In normal circumstances of course I would have returned to my regular functions teaching sport at St Benedict’s School. I would also be attending to my council duties at Hounslow House and having face to face conversations with other community leaders. Instead I find myself glued to my laptop, moving from one Zoom meeting to another, relying solely on emails to track casework and preparing to deliver my next set of online lessons to my pupils – all to meet our current guidelines to stay at home and practice social distancing specifically to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed.
It is important to remember that these measures are temporary. But spare a thought for pupils across the borough having to deal with these adversities for the first time, especially those who were looking forward to sitting their GCSE and A level exams this term. They should be commended for their patience and fortitude at this important stage of their lives. Continuing to study and studying from home in these uncertain times requires new levels of discipline to harness their love for learning.
In my workplace, there is an expectation that pupils embrace the daily routine in accordance with the school timetable. There is some flexibility with younger pupils, but ultimately, we are asking parents at home to support schools in implementing these new working patterns. Teachers I speak to regularly are thankful for the support that parents are giving to their children at home.
The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, confirmed last Sunday afternoon what we had all anticipated: that schools would remain closed until the medical experts were assured that, across the country, the NHS was coping with the demand, that both the daily infection and death rate from Covid-19 were receding, that we had full testing capacity and that the risks of a second wave of infection were sufficiently mitigated. I fully endorse his statement.
Of course, schools have stayed open to children of critical workers. In addition, provisions have been extended to cover vulnerable children and those with learning difficulties. I am one of those teachers who has been taking turns in working at school to enable key workers to keep doing their heroics. It is true that we have not been at full capacity. This is also the case at schools across the borough. To look into this issue, I have started a dialogue with my colleagues, council officers and the lead cabinet member for children and young people to establish the extent to which this trend is affecting our most vulnerable children.
Vital support for residents through the Community Support Hub
As you may know, the Hounslow Community Support Hub is now fully operational. It is serving as a vital source of food provision to shielded residents. Its services have been extended to reach other vulnerable members of our community, not just the shielded. And it offers befriending and other support to vulnerable residents. It has a team of dedicated staff answering phone calls and responding to general enquiries. I have been attending the community support hub regularly both to see the operation at first hand and also to help as a volunteer packing the regular food boxes. If you are aware of anyone who could benefit from the support of this vital service, please get in touch with us or go directly to the hub.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank all our local NHS staff, fellow teachers, dustbin men, street cleaners, council officers, councillors, social workers, foster parents, bus drivers, delivery drivers and postmen and women for their local contribution towards our national effort.
Cllr Ron Mushiso