Today as part of my ‘Connected’ project, I’ve paired up two badges. They’re quite different from other items I’ve posted so far but when I came across them in my sorting, they felt more pertinent than ever. I first acquired them through being involved in a campaign against academisation at my sons’ state school. That was in 2016, a point when I witnessed democracy under threat and watched first hand, people behave in ways I considered to be unacceptable. With new leadership, the school’s culture underwent rapid change in a very short space of time; transforming a brilliant community school into an academy was the goal, it seemed, in spite of initial reassurances to the contrary. Those in positions of power, appointed in order to be accountable to the school community at large and transparent in their actions, simply weren’t; secrecy prevailed, meetings were held behind closed doors and a ‘my way or the highway’ doctrine set in.
The campaign was inspiring and brought parents together. It succeeded in delaying the academisation, but in the end, with the government’s support, it was pushed through. Subsequent scathing, national reports of a serious lack of pastoral care for the most vulnerable children and young people in education, as well as financial irregularities within a number of academy schools, have confirmed my worst fears about what academisation can mean. There’s a lot more detail I could go into, but it’s in the past now, and some things are just best left unsaid. But these two small badges have stirred up a lot of those old feelings – that power of objects again, however small or insignificant they might appear on the surface.
And as conversations around the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the UK revolve around what’s true/what’s not, who’s accountable in all this and so on, I find myself experiencing similar feelings to those of 2016 – of mistrust, of suspicion and of a very real, raw anger. There’s so much that resonates from the past with the situation we’re currently in – uncertain, anxious times in which lies and misinformation, unless confronted, will continue to be drip fed to us. What’s the likelihood, I wonder of members of this government ever being held to account for the gross errors made in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic? There are so many questions to be asked – harsh, serious questions about how this country’s health and social care system was ever allowed to be eroded to the point it was. Will this pandemic be a wake-up call to all that was wrong? Can we ever go back to how things were? Will things ultimately, change?
There have been many eloquent thoughts written on the subject, this quote from one by Nasrine Malik in a Guardian article in March, 2020 being a great example:
‘Austerity has already claimed lives; but, because of their speed and visibility, coronavirus deaths are not as easy to style out. We no longer know how to hold a government to account on the truly important matters of the day. The pandemic needs to be a wake-up call – or else the Conservative government will continue to kill us, then walk at our funeral.’
You can read Nasrine Malik’s full article here: