The schools our kids go to joined a federation of 4 other schools recently. 5 small schools working together enable us to have better access to resources and brings some efficiencies too. However, it also brings challenges.
We’re in full national lockdown in the UK again, including no school for children. Everything is to be remote and online. The leadership of our school responded promptly to this telling parents where to go for online resources. Parents are to become teachers now (I’m sorry for my kids as I am as far from a primary school teacher as you can get!). The email also told parents that if they were in ‘essential’ jobs or had vulnerable children, one of the 5 schools would be open and all kids were to go there.
Here’s the thing. Through the lens of the organisation it makes sense to close 4 sites, keep one open and have all the kids go there. It’s efficient. All management theory and textbooks would approve. However, it is not efficient for parents or children. The drive to school for most parents is now 3 times longer. Many vulnerable children, especially those living with various disabilities, need and crave stability. Going to a completely new school with new teachers and unfamiliar other students is the opposite of stability.
Management theory and textbooks always seem to forget about this. Or it simply views it as an acceptable loss or cost. It’s an externality. Someone else’s problem. And it is wrong. Ugly. And destroying our communities.
One more thing.
Shifting to remote learning. Online learning. This feels very 21st century. Feels like a good thing, a smart thing, a no brainer. And it is in so many ways, except for a few rather crucial things. The more vulnerable you are or the less financially well off you are, the less this works for you. Even here in the UK.
The poorer you are or the more rural you live, the less likely each child in your household has a device they have access to. Also the less likely you have fibre or high speed internet in your home. And the less likely you have a data plan or the financial means to increase your data plan to cope with the increase data consumption.
Therefore, while remote learning and online education seems like a no brainer, it also highlights and increases inequality.
And this should not be addressed as an after thought. Or left to a bunch of underfunded, understaffed, and overworked charities.
Promoting efficient and equal societies should be core to our approach. It is achievable. If we choose to look at efficiency and equality through the lens of the most vulnerable in our communities, not the majority. We’d make different choices.
The choice is up to us.