Covid: 'Risks are high' in schools during lockdown 3, education boss warns

Join our Zoom debate about the reopening of schools (file photo) Picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO/M

Clare Flintoff says: 'By keeping your children at home, you are saving lives' - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Have you heard the news about fronted adverbials?

Well, they made the news this week. Who would have thought it?

Such an unlikely news event - just one small part of the primary grammar curriculum, one or more carefully chosen words that are used to describe the action that follows in a sentence, words that we use everyday, seemingly insignificant and often overlooked, have become of such interest to so many.

Pausing for a moment, I chew the end of my pencil as I decide what to write next. Decisively, I scribble another sentence.

At the same time, I provide you with three lovely examples of fronted adverbials! ‘Fronted’ because they appear at the beginning of the sentence, and ‘adverbials’ because they describe the verb, the action that follows.

Teachers in Essex are said to be missing out on a pay rise of £4,000 a year in real terms. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ASSET Education schools have recorded the same number of positive Covid cases in the past four weeks as the whole of the autumn term - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto


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They can be single words, phrases or even subordinate clauses if they contain a subject and a verb, and generally describe how or when something happens.

Although rather unexpected, fronted adverbials, along with several other grammatical constructions that most people would have to "Google" to understand, made headlines as parents desperately try to keep up with their children’s home learning.

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In homes up and down the country, a mammoth effort is taking place.

Nobody ever wanted this to happen and emotions are running high.

It is unbelievably difficult trying to keep children focused on their home learning and give them the support they need when everyone is stuck inside for weeks on end.

The younger the children, the more difficult it is.

If you are working from home and trying to juggle home learning for one or more primary school children then, quite frankly, along with all of our key worker parents, you deserve a medal.

I can guarantee you that none of us who work in primary schools ever wanted you to have to do this and we want it to end just as soon as it can.

In a one page open letter to parents on Saturday, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, spoke of his "awe of the way parents, carers and guardians of children have risen to the unique challenges".

He wants you to know that you are doing a great job "for your own kids" and "for the country too".

He talks about "buying time for our army of vaccinators to protect the vulnerable" and for that he "cannot thank you enough".

The messaging is absolutely right and long overdue but it doesn’t fit the familiar narrative that "schools are safe places to be" we’ve become accustomed to hearing from him.

What we need is clarity about the messaging. Schools are not safe places for too many people to be at the moment and the risks are high.

It may be safe enough for your child if you accept that they will mix with their classmates, be exposed to coronavirus, will probably be asymptomatic when they catch it (70% of young children probably are) and you will be none the wiser.

Unless of course they unwittingly and unbeknown to any of us, bring the virus into your home or spread it to their teachers. Children themselves may be safe enough in school, but it doesn’t make it safe for them to attend school.

Clare Flintoff, chieff executive of ASSET Education - which runs a number of schools in Suffolk. Pic

Clare Flintoff is chief executive of ASSET Education - Credit: Archant

In our 14 primary schools spread across south and north-east Suffolk, we have recorded the same number of positive coronavirus cases in the first four weeks of the spring term as we recorded in the whole of the autumn term, from September right through to December.

There is no doubt that we are right in the depths of this crisis and at the most difficult moment right now.

By keeping your children at home, despite all of the difficulties and challenges, you are saving lives. Every day we are step closer to the end of the crisis.

We don’t need your children to return to school knowing about fronted adverbials, we just want them to return and we want your family to be there for them for many more years to come.

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