It is perhaps a little early to begin to form a judgment or even an observation on what might best be described as the COVID way of doing school. Each day there are new adaptations, new rules and therefore new experiences, and new insights produced by the protean manifestations of the virus and the subsequent updates in daily and local guidance. Changes which might take months or years are achieved in a matter of weeks. This brief reflection may be out of date this time next month as new ways of doing school are forced upon us.
“All that remains and all that is allowed is the work, the work.”
What we can already definitely conclude is that COVID school is no party. It is no fun. Ministers, inspectors, and leaders have achieved, through the unplanned arrival of the virus, a kind of unrelenting focus on work and work only which would make Michael Gove smile. Assemblies and the various bits of multi-year and multi-subject applause and celebrations which they contain are impossible. Staff, sustained by a lunch break where they can vent and support colleagues, must not eat lunch within two meters of each other. The innocent import and sharing of a cupcake is a potential source of infection subject to mild anxiety and infection control concerns. All that remains and all that is allowed is the work, the work.
It is possible that pupils and staff will adjust to this over time. History teaches that the human ability to adapt to almost any change of circumstances with stoic ingenuity and forbearance will allow schools to move forward even in this atmosphere without parties, without proximity, without mingling, without collective celebration.
In the case of Liverpool schools, there is now a very necessary further restriction. When moving around school or near school gates, pupils, parents and staff must wear masks. Somehow this particular change provides a visual and symbolic expression of the change of school form jovial and festive village of personalities to clinically scrubbed rivet factory. The faces of staff and pupils are obscured thus effectively jamming the unspoken communication through the expressions of the face. The face is definitely the key component of social and educational life. In the hallways now, we have had to bock this channel of unspoken communication leaving hall silent, orderly, and faceless.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to remember school Pre-Covid. It will be interesting to see how we and our school have changed when the discarded masks can be incinerated and the astro-turf becomes a multi-year football match again. School will be less ordered, less efficient, and less focused then. But we will have our faces back, and we will have a lot of fun.