School strikes, here we go again.
Closures are affecting schools across the north and north-east on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.
This after Unison, the largest union representing non-teaching school staff, rejected a pay rise offer of 5.5%. “Too little, too late”, they said.
As parents, we should be used by now to our children bearing the brunt of strikes and hapless political decision-making.
First Covid, with kids at home for five months and parents left to ‘home-school’ their kids. However we were supposed to do that, with most of us having jobs.
Then Nicola Sturgeon’s sudden decision to lock us all down again in January 2021.
I would love to have had Sturgeon sit my tearful daughter down and explain why I needed to cancel her birthday party. But hey, by this point parents were just punchbags for the powers that be.
Nobody suffered more during the draconian Covid restrictions than the most vulnerable in society: children and the elderly.
Scottish Government restrictions opened a ‘Pandora’s box’ of youth anxiety and school absence in the years since.
Kids have paid a heavy price: Covid, teacher strikes, and now more school closures
Meanwhile, last November saw the first of several rounds of school closures as a result of teacher strikes. Closures rumbled on into the following spring.
Not that I’m unsympathetic to teachers. I’m married to one, and my mother was also a teacher for 40 years.
But yet again, it was young people being disadvantaged due to the actions of grown-ups and those in positions of authority.
As a parent, the past few months have been the closest to ‘normal’ in years.
So perhaps it was inevitable that our kids and their education would once again suffer through no fault of their own.
My wife made the point at the weekend that if you added up all the school days lost over the last three or four years for whatever reason, it would come to a pretty shocking number.
In my 13 years of schooling, I don’t remember a single day lost to anything other than snow.
Again, I’m not unsympathetic to support staff in schools. They’re vital, as I’ve witnessed throughout my own three kids’ school journeys. We all loved our school janny, right?
It’s only fair to point out that support staff are the lowest-paid workers in schools.
But it’s simply the latest in a now recurring pattern of kids being dealt the roughest hand through the incompetence of those in positions of power.
If it’s not incompetence, then it’s an ongoing, repeated, and wilful disregard for children and young people.
Home-schooling rearing its ugly head again
As with most other parents across the north and north-east, my kids will be kicking about at home this week.
But not to worry, as the school informs me they can do their work on Google Classroom.
Perhaps if our kids were given laptops or tablets to do their work. As indeed the Scottish Government promised us.
In their manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021, the SNP pledged to give every school child in Scotland a laptop, Chromebook or iPad.
Many of us are still waiting.
My kids need to borrow my laptop to do their homework. I’ve heard of parents having to lend their kids their phone.
Do they think parents have the time to hand over their devices so their kids can do their schoolwork? Many of us use them for work, or need them for a plethora of other things.
Even if they give our kids a device, do they think we have the time to help them with their schoolwork during the working day?
Isn’t schools’ constant, almost daily, barrage of emails and texts enough for already information-overloaded parents?
No, teaching is the teachers’ job.
If kids don’t have classroom access to their teacher, neither I nor my wife will be stepping in to replace them.
Not when we’ve got a living to earn and a hundred other things to do to manage a family and household.
Authorities need to understand the human cost of decisions affecting children
Both the UK and Scottish Governments have a lot to answer for, with everything kids and their parents have been put through the last few years.
That’s not just a personal view, by the way. The children’s commissioner said in May that Nicola Sturgeon had “absolutely failed” to deliver for young people. Neither was he confident that her successor Humza Yousaf would do any better for young people.
But regardless, what this parent would like to see is politicians at all levels, and even union leaders, start thinking about the human cost of their decisions, before making them.
I wish all parents the best of luck this week as they patch together childcare to get through to the weekend.
Perhaps one day in the not too distant future, someone, somewhere, will stop the rot and let our children have the childhood, and the education, they deserve.
Calum Petrie is a father-of-three and writes features about schools, education, and family matters.