What was the sense of closing the schools only to put all the kids into every shopping centre?

I imagine most parents had that sinking feeling when they learned that they were closing the schools – here we go again. Still, it was only one week extra so we had to suck it up and take one for the team. It could have been worse, it seems Sinn Fein were pushing for a ludicrous 6 weeks off. There has been lots of debate around the importance of school to children. There are obvious things like the value of routine, socialising, learning but then you have the issue that for some kids it might be the only chance they get for a decent meal or a break from chaotic home lives. Not to mention the key fact that if the kids are off parents can’t work.

My own personal observation is that with the kids being off we have just decanted them into shopping centres. Kids are bored, parents are bored and the natural thing to to do is turn to the nations favourite leisure activity of shopping. On Saturday there were massive traffic jams all along Boucher Road in Belfast, I witnessed over a hundred people queuing outside the new Range store which now occupies the old B&Q store. I don’t blame parents, with so many things being closed we are finding it hard ourselves to amuse our 5-year-old. We are doing the usual parks and forests but when the weather is bad you do tend to default to a dander around your local shopping centre.

So we had a situation where all the kids were happy in their little bubbles in school and then we decide to send them all home to sit in front of screens all day with occasional shopping breaks where they can mix freely with all the pensioners and other vulnerable groups – what a fantastic idea.

I know there have been issues in some schools with staffing, but a lot of schools were managing. My son’s school had been doing an excellent job of keeping everyone safe and he had not missed a day all year.

Where was the science or rationale for closing the schools? Apart from the Czech Republic, we are the only place in Europe to close schools. Even in the Republic where they have moved into level 5 complete lockdown, the schools are still functioning.

My fear is we will start to hear calls to extend the lockdown further. Our politicians need to ensure that schools should always be the last thing to close and the first thing to open. It is a tragedy that the welfare of our children has been turned into yet another political football.

Photo by Victoria_Borodinova is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

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