I spend a great deal of time waiting for buses. Not now, you understand, but back in the good old days when school was open. I mean properly open, like we went there every weekday and about 92% of the children turned up. We're at about 2% now, I think. My journey to work involved getting off the number 13, walking past Greggs trying to resist the temptation to buy a bacon roll, walking past McDonalds (same problem, but for 'bacon roll' read 'Sausage McMuffin) and then standing at the stop for the number 20 bus, which was directly opposite a gym.
Now, at 7.00am gyms can be pretty busy places. And you can tell exactly how busy, because all the treadmills are invariably lined up against a huge glass window. Why they do this I don't know. One website I visited suggested that it was an attempt at a huge living advertisement, or that it made the people who used them think they were models. Or that passers-by, upon seeing the ranks of sweaty exhausted people, felt a little less concerned about being sweaty and exhausted themselves a lot of the time. It could be quite reassuring, I suppose. You can read more about this at http://conalldempsey.com/product-design-and-usage/why-do-gyms-have-huge-glass-windows/.
But why mention gyms, you might ask?
Well, gyms have far more members than they could possibly accommodate at one time. I've no idea what the ratio of members to treadmills, or cross trainers, or dumbells is, but I reckon its got to be pretty high. The exercise bike that the Lycra-clad size 8 model is using when I get on the bus at 6.57am probably hosts another twenty glutei maximi in the course of one day. That's almost two dozen derrieres in twenty four hours - or 1 bph (bums per hour).
In comparison, the seats in my classroom are underused. They used to run at about 0.2 bums per hour, being sat upon for about five hours in every 24 back in the Good Old Days. Now they run at 0 bph. The block in which I teach has actually been mothballed until further notice.
The thing is that, even though they only get to use the facilities for a fraction of the day, the members of the gym are, generally, satisfied. Maybe, like me, they've got a treadmill at home - only they actually use it. Or a set of weights - but ones that they use as weights and not as doorstops. The point is, they pass through the gym regularly and get their fix. The staff get to know them. They've probably got a personal trainer who checks in with them. Perhaps they meet up with the same folks much of the time, people who are also trying to lose weight, get into Size 10 jeans or compete in the 2024 Olympics. They might even go to a Zumba class together once a week. The rest of the time they work out at home. They run round the neighbourhood in their tracksuits, listening to Sara Millican on the 'Couch to 5K' app, swerving wildy to maintain social distancing from people, like me, who are walking their dogs in the opposite direction.
Cyclical School is a bit like a gym. You turn up a couple of times a week (Engage Day and Evaluate Day, if you remember the model from a few days ago). On your Engage Day you get your 'fix' on the state of the art equipment and meet up with your teachers and a few other students. New ideas are introduced and you get given all the resources you need. Then you go home - or, perhaps, to the Library or a Community Centre or a Church Hall if home isn't an option - where you have your 'Explore', 'Explain' and 'Elaborate' Days before going back to school for your 'Evaluate' Day, when you and your teachers work out if you've understood it all. Systems are put in place so that you can elect to learn in any one of several places, where they'll take a 'register' and provide an Internet connection. There might even be a 'responsible adult' to act as a support worker - you know, the ones who were once Librarians. youth workers or who couldn't get work in the post-COVID recession. Maybe, even a vending machine ... or a pool table and a juke box. That would be very 1960s. Your teachers, who would only be doing face-to-face, live teaching for about 20% of their time, would be available in 'Chat Rooms' to support you on Days 2, 3 and 4, offering personalised support via a webcam.
In this way, schools running in 'cyclical mode' can keep tabs on everybody while only having 40% of the student population on site at any one time. Want to have students in even less frequently? That's easy. Have eight days between 'Engage Day' and 'Evaluate Day' so there's only one year group on site on any one day. Come to think of it, Cyclical School could run at 20% capacity (one 'Engage-Evaluate' cycle per fortnight), or at 10% (one 'Engage-Evaluate' cycle every four weeks) or, in what would equivalate to 'lockdown', at 5% (one 'Engage-Evaluate' cycle per half term). Even that is better than the dark tunnel we're in now. Going back to an old acronym I created, it is
And, as the Chancellor says, "I commend it to this House."
PS. Actually, I did. I wrote to my local MP yesterday and told her all about it. If you would like to comment on the idea of Cyclical School or be involved in a future Zoom meeting, please send your details to email@example.com