TODAY I have kept my twelve-year-old daughter home from school. She is in the living room eating a croissant and watching YouTube. Later, I shall be taking her out for lunch, followed by a trip to Flip Out. She is not ill and is not one of the unlucky thousands of school children under house arrest, deemed close contacts of a Covid ‘case’.
Why, then, no school? Is it because I don’t value education? Do I not mind augmenting the school hours she’s missed over the last 16 months (55 per cent between the beginning of lockdown one and the end of lockdown three)? On the contrary, my husband and I care deeply about education. We are paying a high premium to send her to private school, such is the value we place on it. Keeping her off pains us. We want her to learn, be with her friends, play sport and enjoy her music.
Why, then, the withdrawal? The answer is simple: School has become a liability to my daughter. In my judgment she is more at risk by attending than by being absent. This is because of the testing regime being imposed upon our children and the related constant threat of isolation.
For those unfamiliar with the system, let me explain. Secondary school parents test their children every third day and any positive case is immediately required to isolate for ten days. I’m not concerned about this happening to my daughter, because we are not testing her. However, anyone who has been in the same class bubble as the positive case, for up to two days previously, is deemed a close contact and also has to isolate for ten days. This is where I fear we may be caught out.
Two days off school safeguards my daughter from being identified as a close contact if anyone in her bubble tests positive at the next round. I simply cannot risk having my daughter’s young life shut down for the third time in a year. I have noticed a shift in her mood over the last couple of weeks and I’m deeply concerned.
This weekend my daughter has an audition. Drama is one of her great pleasures and she’d like to become an actress. This audition means a lot to her and she’s worked hard to prepare for it. I just can’t tolerate the risk of having the rug pulled from under her feet. Sure, she might not get the part – in fact, the odds are against her – but the point is, she needs to be able to dream again. She has sacrificed drama for the best part of a year; seen opportunities to perform slip through her fingers; been denied the chance to hone her skills and had the joy and buzz that she experiences being on stage obliterated.
So she has to miss two valuable days of school to save a priceless audition. Not a satisfactory trade-off to have to make. Frankly, I’m very angry to be in this position. The question that needs to be addressed with utmost urgency is ‘For whom, exactly, are we isolating our children?’
It is standard practice that any policy involving children should be crafted such that they, themselves, benefit. With the amazing protection afforded children, simply by their age profile, isolating them because of contact with a ‘positive’ case, clearly is not in their best interests.
So who is it for? Is it for the 99 per cent of over fifties who have now been vaccinated? It can’t be. Hancock has got many things wrong, but he was correct when he enjoined us to ‘cry freedom’ once the top nine groups were protected. With a staggering 86.6 per cent of the adult population now brimming with antibodies, there really is no legitimate reason to keep testing and isolating our children.
This damaging policy must end, with immediate effect. It should be the priority of our new Health Secretary, as he takes office. Our children need their hope and their futures restored. They need to be able to live and dream again.