Dear Mr Zahawi

Dear Mr Zahawi,

I saw your recent appeal to retired teachers to return to the classroom and help hard-pressed schools cope with the rising number of staffing absences caused by Covid. I am one such teacher. I will not be accepting your invitation in the New Year. Let me tell you why.

I retired in 2009 after 37 years in the classroom, the last 14 of which were as headteacher of a junior school. I loved the job but I sometimes despaired at the utter chaos your party brought. I recall the fiasco of the way the National Curriculum was introduced. I recall the wretched state of the building when I first took up my headship, with holes in the roof and rotting windows. I sat through a stack of OFSTED inspections that told me more about the inspectors and their agenda than it did about school improvement.

None of that comes close to the havoc you Conservatives are creating in schools now. Your predecessor could claim that the speed with which Covid swept through the country during 2020 caught everyone – even him – unawares. Even so his responses, from the lack of suitable protective coverings to the slow roll-out of laptops to help remote learning, turned incompetence into an art-form. You have no such excuse, however.

After 2 years of Covid, it has been obvious for some time that the virus spreads fastest in enclosed spaces. Your own government’s advertising encourages people to be aware of this risk and take precautions. Professor Tricia Greenhalgh has helpfully itemised the actions needed to keep schools open. But what’s your response?

You have failed to mandate mask-wearing in schools even though they are very effective at reducing the spread of the virus; you still haven’t got the CO2 monitors promised in August fully rolled out; only now have you accepted that air filters are worth having – but you have the nerve to set up a ‘market place’ which favours big business and forces schools into difficult budgeting decisions when every classroom could be provided with one relatively cheaply; you deliberately ignored the question of vaccinations in schools even though evidence is emerging of rising numbers of hospitalisations among primary school children especially; and you have the nerve to ask for volunteers among the most vulnerable age groups to go back into the classroom.

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Your party’s track record on Covid where schools are concerned is so atrocious it’s not going to happen. As the New Year begins, I expect to see school closures because of the sickness levels among staff. I expect to see parents voting with their feet and withdrawing their children from school, in the interests of their safety; and you will have brought this on yourselves.

I can guarantee you this – no amount of special pleading will persuade me to return, to help you out. I won’t be alone.

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