Now is the time to put school lessons online

Re your editorial (The Guardian view on keeping schools open: not an open and shut case, 2 November), there is only one relevant question regarding schools in relation to the month-long lockdown starting this week: will it work if secondary schools continue to be open in the same way as they have been since September? Given the rise in Covid-19 transmission in schools despite all the efforts made (so-called bubbles, masks and/or visors worn in corridors, one-way systems etc), the answer is likely to be no. When this becomes apparent, schools will close anyway and lockdown will have to be extended.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Some schools have made enormous strides to develop their ability to deliver online lessons to the majority of pupils. When private schools offered this we called them “privileged”. Now that some state schools are ready to do it we should take the opportunity to use this as a way of continuing education but allowing schools to be safer (due to smaller numbers) for the pupils who cannot learn at home.

I teach deaf pupils in a number of high schools in the north-west. I asked some of my pupils to compare the experience of working at home in the first lockdown with recent periods of time when they have been sent home due to outbreaks in their year groups. The consensus was the former was much better: normal timetables were followed, and the lessons worked. They missed their friends, but they were learning.

Now is the time to allow schools to offer a combination of on-site and online lessons – not in a few weeks when our collective efforts have been in vain because we have allowed transmission to continue in schools.
Shona Nsoatabe
Stretford, Manchester

This new lockdown will not get the R number below 1 if we keep secondary schools and universities open, resulting in a likely continuation of cases and even more damage to the economy. I have family members in teaching who say that the attempt to be Covid-secure is impossible and that whole classes of students – never mind year groups – are not safe “bubbles” but are reservoirs of virus and easy asymptomatic transmission.

What is the point of Dominic Cummings and his team of “superpredictors” if they were unable to predict the impact of the second wave and the preparations that the Department of Education needed to make from May onwards, including: the issue of grading; adequate distribution of laptops for home study; the inevitability of teacher assessment in 2021; regular school Covid testing; and hybrid learning by rotating students between home and school to enable adequate social distancing. Most secondary schools with low ceilings and poor ventilation have the worst environments for Covid safety (Michael Gove cancelled most school building improvement). This astonishing failure of basic governance has been lethal both for school staff and wider society.
Philip Wood
Kidlington, Oxfordshire

Having read your helpful list of the new rules (Deciphering the quirks of England’s second Covid lockdown rules, 3 November), the following question springs to mind. If we are only allowed to meet one other person in a public space, how will schools manage the groups of parents who currently congregate twice a day at school gates, frequently with neither masks nor social distancing? Will this continue to be ignored, as is widely the case at present?
Mary Stiff
Broadclyst, Devon

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