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Dear Nadhim Zahawi, your praise for teachers is just hooey if you don’t make schools safer | Michael Rosen

then January 2 for you chirp: “Teachers and support staff across the country have put in a tremendous effort over the past 18 months and more, and I know we can count on their unwavering support in the weeks ahead as we weather this storm.” I am a big fan of metaphors but when it comes to epidemics we have to be very careful in choosing the right ones. Is the Covid pandemic a “storm”? I’ll put it this way: We breathe each other. This is how we get Covid. Storms come from there in the clouds. We don’t breathe storms on each other.

More on metaphor and similes later. In the meantime: You are absolutely right on both parts of that sentence. It was a hard effort and we can all count on the teachers going forward. So it’s disturbing to reflect on how few teachers have been helped or praised by your government for their hard work throughout the pandemic. As a result, insults and goofy comments about being silly or making it easy for them came out.

You also wrote: “I have asked former teachers who have left the profession or retired to apply to temporarily support the workforce for the new semester. I know many have come forward and this lightning bolt will be essential in turning the tide on Covid.”

Did you read the responses to this tweet? I will summarize the points people are making, while also saving you from anger. They remind you that people who retire are among the most vulnerable to contracting Covid because of their age. Although you made a requirement that high school students wear masks, elementary schools are largely mask-free areas. Moreover, in schools there are many unventilated places that are often filled with people who are very close to each other. These specific conditions are sometimes called “super diffusers.”

What is the problem of government ventilation? Once scientists made it clear to your government that this is an airborne virus, you could have discovered that one way to prevent it from spreading into the atmosphere surrounding a group of people was to do whatever you could to enable fresh and/or filtered to circulate the air instead.

You seem to know this, because the government has now offered to introduce it 7000 units of air purifier education settings. Of course, this number was met with hysterical and sarcastic laughter. Many took the number 7000 as a sign to do some math. It went like this: How many classrooms are there in England? The common estimate seems to be around 300,000, although some have come with a little more, and I don’t know. But whatever the real answer is, it’s clearly not 7000, or anything like that. I’ll leave you to calculate the percentages of the number of classes that will be reached by your offer.

So what is this advertisement? Who was he supposed to fool? teachers? The other school staff? children? Older school students? Parents? Or the British public who has no idea how many classrooms? Do you think the vast majority of the population would say to themselves: “7000? Wow, this government is rolling up its sleeves and fighting the virus now!” Did it?

Let’s go back to my first tweet. It is full of praise. But if you could only have 7,000 air filters, the praise would be just talk, right? And asking retired teachers to go to school without using one of 7,000 air filters is both difficult and dangerous.

Then she summoned a ‘Fighting Spirit’. Do you really want to draw an analogy between a living human enemy trying to kill us and a virus that has no human intentions?

Our main source of help to reduce the numbers killed or maimed by Covid is medical science, not self-immolation – if that’s what you mean by blitzkrieg. Time and time again, advice or help from the government has been confusing, wrong, or inadequate. So whatever that blitzkrieg, how will it be “essential” to “turn the tide” on Covid?

My parents told me about the blitzkrieg: like going into shelters that can’t handle the blow. Come to think of it, it might be like sending retired teachers to unventilated schools. My mother told me she tried to follow the government’s instructions. Once when she was outside and heard the wrong doodles in the sky, she knew the instructions were to find a gutter and lie in it. I did exactly that. It was from White City station. If it was a blitzkrieg that made her lie in the gutter, I’m not sure that her doing so brought the Nazi tide back – if that’s the tide you were talking about.

So, I will sign this letter with:

Yours, upset, worried, but mostly confused, Michael Rosen

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