To School or Not to School?

Oliviaccoles
7 min readJan 13, 2021

The PM Boris Johnson announced last week that schools around the UK will not be going ahead with opening amid the announcement of a third National Lockdown. Do you know anyone affected by this? How has the news coverage been? Has it helped us?

Back to School

From March 2020 many adaptations have had to be made to the way that we live our lives that are continually changing and perhaps will remain indefinitely. The announcement made by Boris Johnson on the 4th of January 2021 enforced a third national lockdown. The country waited for this with bated breath knowing that this would have a further effect on daily lives especially for those in education.

Following on from previous announcements it was a complete turnaround and all primary and secondary schools would be moving to online education. The schools are only available for vulnerable and children of key workers. For some this is preferred as working from home has made a positive impact on their studies but for many, the negative impact could mean the downfall of personal grades. As stated on LBC news, ‘Mr. Johnson added that GCSEs and A-level exams would be cancelled this year.’ Here is a way in which journalists show the public what they need to know in a simple and quick form, making it easy for readers to know what they need to know and the main purpose of journalism. From this being published on LBC News, the public now knows that all grades awarded to students will be conducted through teacher assessment. The message was clear and enabled journalists on all mediums to deliver it to the public and also support this statement with the scientific evidence to control the virus and protect the NHS.

Although expecting the PM to change the direction the public was still stunned by the announcement of the third national lockdown and after being told multiple different things at the last minute before this lockdown was announced the public looked to journalists for support. This encouraged journalists to update their published news stories more than ever before. The uncertainty brought about by our PM also had a large effect on the journalists of the UK because of how fast-paced the news is. Journalists have also had to constantly report the changes that the PM has made without confusing their readers, adding extra pressure on them to provide accurate and timely information.

Mr. Johnson has stated that there will be extra support to ensure that pupils entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them while schools are closed, and we will distribute more devices to support remote education”. This extra support should enable students families who do not have the economic ability to purchase a device for their children to engage with online lessons and homework and therefore getting more of an equal opportunity to gain good grades, especially those years eleven’s and thirteen. It also addresses the issue of parents not having the economic stability to feed their children hence the free school meals, the PM announcing that the school meals will still be distributed will take away the pressure from the parents having to find enough money for children’s lunches when they are coping with the already stressful pandemic and possible job insecurity .inswill have added stress due to the pandemic already. The way in which Boris Johnson promised this to the children and families of the UK without the confirmation of what food parcels will be distributed caught the eye of journalists which took the headlines of all of the major newspapers, online news, and local newspapers.

Marcus Rashford, a Manchester United football player, who over the last year, conducted a campaign for food to be provided in every school holiday and throughout the pandemic has now reached over 1.1 million signatures. This parliamentary petition requests for all underprivileged households with children, to have free school meals, throughout the school holidays and throughout the closure of schools, in order to combat child poverty. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, The Sun online states ‘The package included a £170m Covid winter grant scheme to support vulnerable families in England and an extension of the holiday activities and food programme to the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks this year’. Although this was what was meant to go ahead, as well as the promise from PM after the announcement of the third lockdown, the school meals that have been extended to families were unacceptable and it was reported that it was not worth £30 as promised. These parcels contained, four cups of pasta, two tins of baked beans, one can of tomatoes, and apples. In an article in the Malvern Gazette, Cllr Charles has stated, ‘It looks like yet another case of the government helping its corporate friends become parasites of the pandemic, by outsourcing food hampers at a cost of £30 to the taxpayer, to provide no more than £5 of food to the child’, suggesting the hunger of these children is an opportunity for the government to increase financial profits. The way that the Malvern Gazette used this bias opinion about the government, suggesting the loss of faith the public now has in the government, and although many agree that the government used these hampers as a way of gaining money for themselves, the bias opinion from Cllr Charles published on the newspaper can cause havoc for the government and also the public.

Marcus Rashford who has constantly been supporting underprivileged families has contacted Boris Johnson to appeal the ‘completely unacceptable’ food parcels that have been delivered to families in the UK. Rashford tweeted a picture of the parcels and with the caption, ‘3 days of food for 1 family…Just not good enough’, below is the picture of the insufficient food parcel along with Rashford’s caption.

Marcus Rashford’s Tweet

Although this has been unacceptable, Boris Johnson has now spoken with Rashford and has responded on Twitter stating ‘I totally agree with you @MarcusRashord these food parcels do not meet the standards we set out and we have made it clear to the company involved that this is disgraceful. The company concerned has rightly apologised and agreed to reimburse those affected’. This will now after reaching the immediate attention of the PM, have action taken in order to provide families with basic needs. The way in which the news coverage of this issue with the food packages was mostly published on social media, allows for the public and online journalists to publish their opinion for the world to see. This can be a huge positive within this type of story as it can pressurise the government to consider its next actions with more haste.

In conjunction with the issue of families being fed, others will be struggling with the constant change-up of information and schedules. The damaging effect that all three lockdowns have had on children, and the inconsistent messages regarding opening and closing, safe or not safe can cause a mental detrimental effect on many students and cause a downfall in final grades. The Guardian has provided us as the public with more information than what we gathered from the PM and helped us to understand what is happening with schools and why they are closing. Instead of just being provided with information that we already had some insight into, The Guardian has shown us why schools have had to be closed by stating, ‘It is self-evidently unwise to force hundreds of people into small rooms in small buildings during a pandemic’, providing the public with simple information in a time of uncertainty. This is where online journalism is the best way to gain information about current situations as it shows the public an easy and simple way to understand what is happening.

Despite the fact these resources are becoming available for more students, Boris Johnson has warned the UK, ‘although the government’s plan is to reopen primary and secondary schools after the half-term break, we should be ‘extremely cautious about the timetable ahead’, suggesting the uncertainty with when and how schools will reopen in the midst of this pandemic.

In addition to the impact on students' education, although many schools will have resources for children who have parents as key workers, an article by UNESCO suggests the negative impact of children being left alone, leading to risky behaviours, including the increased influence of peer pressure and substance abuse.’ As children are being left to fend for themselves in their education, the repercussions of this can cause a hugely adverse effect on future mental health and their social interactions. In accordance, healthcare workers will have the issue of finding child-care for their children, it could increase a strain on the healthcare system, as many will not be able to frequently attend work due to children being at home. Furthermore, social isolation is a large factor in the detrimental effect of closes schools will have on children. Going to school for several children is their main ‘social hub’ for interactions, as said in the ‘Adverse consequences of school closures’ article, ‘many children and youth miss out on social contact that is essential to learning and development.’

The reality is, however, that self-teaching is very hard to even when there is strong family support’, shown in The Guardian, supports the article on ‘Adverse consequences of school closures’, that even when there is support from families, the self-teaching method isn't the best option. The way in which journalists provide more evidence for the positives and negatives of school closures allows us as the public to have more faith in the journalist sector and the government as all of the content links together. The school closure will mean for numerous amounts, a long-term impact on their educational and social development, including increased exposure to violent activity and replacing social behaviours usually practiced at school with other dangerous human interactions. This will have an increased effect on the underprivileged who do not have enough support outside of school and no opportunities for educational help.

Journalism has covered this issue with schools not re-opening greatly and provided the public with multiple different views of why and how the schools should be closed in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

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Oliviaccoles

A 20 year old English Degree Student. Blogger, fiction lover, music enthusiast and active shopper!