When I was a young boy there were some books that were popular at bedtime than others. One of my favourites was the book of Aesop's Fables which included the story of the tortoise and the hare. I imagine everyone knows it but, just in case you've been on another planet for the past few months, it is summed up as follows.
A Hare was making fun of the Tortoise one day for being so slow.
“Do you ever get anywhere?” he asked with a mocking laugh.
“Yes,” replied the Tortoise, “and I get there sooner than you think. I’ll run you a race and prove it.”
The Hare was much amused at the idea of running a race with the Tortoise, but for the fun of the thing he agreed. So the Fox, who had consented to act as judge, marked the distance and started the runners off.
The Hare was soon far out of sight, and to make the Tortoise feel very deeply how ridiculous it was for him to try a race with a Hare, he lay down beside the course to take a nap until the Tortoise should catch up.
The Tortoise meanwhile kept going slowly but steadily, and, after a time, passed the place where the Hare was sleeping. But the Hare slept on very peacefully; and when at last he did wake up, the Tortoise was near the goal. The Hare now ran his swiftest, but he could not overtake the Tortoise in time.
Since March ... we've managed to get our banking done without needing to go to any branches, got our food delivered without having to go to the supermarket, and had more deliveries from Amazon than we've had hot dinners (well, almost!). We know exactly what our friends are up to without having seen them for months; we've worked without going to our offices, exercised without all the fancy equipment that you get at gyms ... yet it seems that we aren't prepared to contemplate the possibility that we could learn without rushing off to a school.
Yes, there are students who have not done a great deal since just before Easter, but they've 'lost' less than 3% of the 500+ weeks they are entitled to from when they enter Reception to when they leave Sixth Form. Besides, for every child who has drifted away from the school routine, there's at least one who has thrived ... the anxious teenage girl who doesn't have to face up to be taunted on account of her weight, the child who was a school refuser who hasn't taken a day off since he started being homeschooled by a single parent who is also holding down a full-time job, the girl who, somehow, never got a seat on the bus home. I've got 14-year-olds in my GCSE classes whose work during lockdown has surpassed anything they produced when they had to soldier on while I dealt with the muppets who were throwing paper darts around the classroom and hurling abuse at me.
Can we please have a grown-up conversation about what kind of blended learning model might be sustainable in the months ahead? A slow and steady approach rather than one that insists that every school will fling its doors open to every student in four weeks' time, come what may?