THERE’S a moment in some movies, you’ll all know the scene, when a character steps up and issues a rallying cry to their friends, community or sports team.
With each stirring word the music rises, as does the speaker’s confidence, and you all know as an audience that the rest of the movie will see those people carried to some kind of victory on the wave and strength of that speech.
You can often argue with friends after the credits roll whether it was all a bit Hollywood-cheesy but we all know a good rallying cry works in real life, especially if it is genuinely heartfelt and simple to understand.
It should grasp the truth of a moment and shout it to the rooftops in a way that you know will be not just heard but completely understood.
Well, in real life right now that moment is the start of a new school term and the rallying cry is obvious — get children back into the classroom.
I know some parents are concerned about sending their children back to school.
I am convinced that the classroom is the best place for children to be.
Now you’d probably expect a former headteacher and CEO of a multi-academy trust to say that, and it is true, that’s what I was, before I became Children’s Commissioner in March this year.
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However, when I got the job the first task I set myself was actually to listen.
To listen intently enough so that when I did want to call people to action it would have the authenticity not just of my opinions as Commissioner but those of children, preferably thousands of them.
I launched the Big Ask Survey of children across England from April to May this year and by the end, half a million children had told me what they thought.
There is so much to say from reading through their astonishingly honest, open and inspiring responses and I’ll be doing more of that soon.
But today I’ll reveal this one feature — children not only value school, they like it.
Nothing showed them how much more it meant to them, beyond decades of stale jokes about school food, boring homework and detention, than being so comprehensively deprived of the positive reality of school by a virus.
I’ve always followed the medical and scientific advice because I think that’s by far the most sensible approach.
But while I supported the action to save the NHS from being overcome with Covid deaths, I knew that closing schools would have a huge detrimental impact.
It was the last resort, the emergency-only response.
I am convinced that the classroom is the best place for children to be
Rachel De Souza
Schools did close for most children, though so many were open for the most vulnerable children to carry on learning.
But those not in that group paid a big price for helping us tackle a virus that seemed to affect them least.
What they realised throughout this unprecedented disruption is what they missed ab- out school might not have been double maths, but they missed their friends, the social and relationship building that comes from constant interaction within a school community.
They missed the supporting shoulders to cry on and the shared laughter of children their own age.
They don’t just want to do well but be well too.
They have come to understand and appreciate that school does so much of that for them.
We owe them for their great resilience and their continued optimistic outlook for the future.
That is one of the most inspiring things about what they told us — despite it all, they are ready to go onward and upward.
They missed the supporting shoulders to cry on and the shared laughter of children their own age
Rachel De Souza
They’re ready for a rallying cry.
I mentioned the movie scenario where the cry goes out to a team, willing to be out in front leading by example.
Well, we have some amazing ranks of teachers and parents. They have battled through Covid, often working flat out to find ways to teach.
Many of them have been miracle workers, and our teachers, in my experience, have always wanted to be in or get back into the classroom.
It is, in the end, why they do the job.
They are not just ready but already active in schools.
And importantly they are not just getting on with the job as usual but determined to get those children whose schooling was disrupted back on track, and I am fully confident they can.
Parents need to trust them to get that job done because these children are fed up with being labelled a lost generation.
I refuse to believe they are, and I know our schools and our teachers can ensure they aren’t.
As I said, I’ve always followed the scientific advice and I know there are concerns out there.
I’m not glossing over that. Covid hasn’t gone away, and people will still contract it.
However, with so many adults vaccinated it’s given schools much more scope to reclaim “normal” school life as much as possible while accepting that the virus still exists.
My view remains if a child has been advised to get a vaccination and they want to take it, they should be able to
Rachel De Souza
Children will still need to be tested, some may need to isolate. The virus hasn’t gone, but our ability to work around it has improved dramatically.
I don’t underestimate the efforts school staff and parents face in living with the chance some children may be sent home but the message needs to be clear.
The classroom is where they should be.
I also know there are questions over vaccination.
As things stand, only a specific group of younger children have been advised to seek vaccination.
My view remains if a child has been advised to get a vaccination and they want to take it, they should be able to.
Whatever we can do to make education fully open for business as usual should be done and is being done while accepting the realities of tackling a virus that has affected all our lives and will do for some time to come.
If there is a rallying cry perfect for this moment, cue me some rousing music, because I’m stepping up.
Try this . . .
“Parents of England! Get your children to school.
The gates will be open, good teachers are ready to get your children moving past the difficulties of the last two years.
“We can do that, and we will do that. It’s what your children want and deserve. Let’s get them back in class.”
Whatever we can do to make education fully open for business as usual should be done while accepting the realities of tackling a virus that has affected all our lives[/caption]