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The difficult ‘new normal’ for schools in England

After the British government’s failed attempt to have the centres fully open as early as May and June, schools are now preparing for September with pitfalls.

Education matters even with a virus, although the difficulties are great. Let’s think about bodies and spaces, minds and money. There are many challenges and dilemmas in this educational “new normal” interrupted by Covid-19 from all points of view: logistical, budgetary, curriculum, and state intervention for universal education as a social good.

Here are some of the logistics to think about:

■ Bodies and spaces: how do we put the selected students in these available classrooms? There must be two meters between each person. Do we wear masks or not? 8-10 children per class: do we put more in? Each child has their own materials that they cannot share.

■ Restricted mobility. Each group in their classroom, has a fixed teacher, who is not necessarily the ordinary one. Groups cannot be mixed. If one shows symptoms of Covid-19, the entire ‘bubble’ has to go home for fourteen days. The partial opening only is only for certain classes, and they only come to school two days a week. The rest attend virtual lessons with the support of parents because they are minors.

There are individual tutorials and schools are making unprofitable efforts with the most vulnerable students and families. Who plans and coordinates these lessons? Who corrects? How is it evaluated? How is the transition from one course to another handled in this anomalous situation?

■ Money: where is it? What to do if substitutions are needed? How to pay for more space if it is needed? What if you need a psychologist or two?

■ Study plans. How do we distribute materials? How do we correct work? The evaluation? How do we care for absent students? What criteria do we use to prioritize which aspects over others?

The UK education system is strongly centralized, although the four countries have had educational competencies since the time of Tony Blair. There are, therefore, inequalities and differences of all kinds and there have been disobediences of the central government, especially in English Labour regions, for example, Liverpool or Manchester.

So how does the government plan to organise education come September? Time will tell.

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