On Monday 20th September, 2021 the “No Safety? No Work!” campaign met to discuss the situation in workplaces and decide what needed drawing attention to. Secondary Schools were discussed and general dismay was expressed about how mitigations and regulations/guidance were being relaxed. We felt that “learning to live with the virus” in schools would lead to an upsurge in infections and ultimately more deaths in working class communities. We concluded that it was difficult to generalise about the effect of loosening regulations/guidance because each school was different. They have different approaches to management, different organisational structures and serve different communities. However, it has become obvious that schools have again become vectors of transmission and that infections in schools are rising at an alarming rate. The situation is dire and we haven’t even reached half-term yet. (See https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/covid-rates-rising-secondary-schools-b1922207.html).
I have personal experience of what it is like to care for a student at secondary school. I share the care of my 14 year old, step-grandson with his parents. He attends a Free Secondary School. His school has gone back to how things were pre-pandemic. At his school, all mitigations have been removed except for the “one way” system to avoid congestion in corridors. Last Thursday 16th September my step-grandson’s mother received an email from the school to say that a student whom her son had been in close contact with had tested positive (PCR Test) for Covid-19. I was present when she got the message and shared her anxiety. The mother works in a Special Needs School and has to be vigilant. I am old and clinically vulnerable. My step-grandson took a lateral flow test at home and was positive. I did likewise and tested negative. The next day my step-grandson took another Lateral Flow Test and again tested positive. A PCR test was booked for him. The parents contacted their places of work and were told to carry on as normal as they had both been “double jabbed”. My step-grandson cannot be left on his own so I have been caring for him with mitigations in place. On Monday 20th September 2021, my step-grandson had a PCR test at the local testing centre. On Tuesday 22nd September, the result came back as positive. I was present when the result was received. My step-grandson has had pneumonia, which has left scar tissue on his lungs, has ASD and is vulnerable. His mother is concerned. Test & Trace then contacted the mother. It transpires that the school was told that because of the high number of cases in the school, mitigations should stay in place. They did not and now Year 8 have all been told to stay at home and infection rates in the other year groups are rising. There is a problem in the form of the Tory MP in whose constituency the school is in. Free Schools are a flagship Conservative Party policy. The constituency MP is a junior minister on the “payroll” and will just toe the party line that all is well and we just have to learn to live with the virus.
I was also contacted by Test and Trace and told to login to my account for instructions about what to do. I don’t have to self-isolate but have to get a PCR Test, which has been sent for.
This experience has made me realise what working class families have had to put up with for the past year and why they are getting fed up. However, there has been a faint glimmer of hope. When I went to take my step-grandson’s half-brother to Infant School this morning, the other step-grandfather was at the house. He is a delivery driver and was ranting about the “rich twats” he has to deliver to. He echoed the IWW’s definition of a pandemic – “rich people hiding at home while poor people deliver stuff to them” – and demanded that I get on with the revolution that I’m always advocating. If this pandemic achieves anything positive, it will have opened the eyes of our class to the exploitation they are subjected to and made them realise that as far as the bosses are concerned the working class is expendable.