Spinning science to sell their own right-wing political agendas is a dangerous speciality of our government, but one that is common to all capitalist elites across the world. And on the critical issue of the safe reopening of our schools the Tories are once again twisting science to attack our countries key school workers.
Rather than engage in any form of meaningful dialogue with the trade unions representing school staff, the Tories instead choose to wage war upon them. ‘Let Our Teachers Be Heroes’ was the disgraceful front-page of the Daily Mail last Friday, wherein Tories joined forces with Blairites in condemning education workers for wanting to see the science that informs the government’s reckless decision-making.
So far, the Tories have refused to show the trade unions the scientific evidence that they are relying upon to justify their partial reopening of our schools. And in lieu of dialogue, this weekend the Tory press was ablaze with the until now undisclosed scientific evidence that had convinced the Tories that opening our schools will be safe.
The Daily Telegraph (May 17) led the way stating that a study undertaken in New South Wales, Australia, had demonstrated that “Coronavirus does not spread widely in schools”; while the following day the Daily Mail ran with the headline: “Risk of spreading coronavirus between teachers and children in schools is ‘extremely low’, according to major new study.”
Yet what is absolutely clear is that this academic study can in no way be used to justify the opening of schools in Britain.
But the shortcomings of this study have not stopped Australia’s own governing Tory party from twisting the research so they can argue that social distancing measures are “not appropriate and not required” within schools!? Thankfully this nonsense was quickly challenged by the lead author of the scientific report in question, Dr. Kristine Macartney, who highlighted her study’s various limitations while making it clear that children can still transmit coronavirus.
But the main reason why the preliminary Australian study cannot be used to justify school opening in Britain is because the countries are in no way comparable, as so far Australia has been barely touched by the pandemic (in terms of deaths anyway). With a population of 25 million, Australia has only just reached a total death toll of 99, while the UK (with a population of 68 million) has suffered over 50,000 deaths.
We should also add, that over the six-week course of the Australian study (March 5 to April 21) of coronavirus infections in the state of New South Wales (which has a population of 8 million) only 26 people died from COVID-19. Even more crucially it has already been reported that by the first week of April “in-person attendance” in the state’s schools had fallen to just 5% as the “government encouraged parents to have their children study at home if they were able.” Thus, we can safely say that what is happening in Australia regarding the spread of the coronavirus is nothing like what has occurred in Britain or Europe for that matter.
A cursory look at the impact of the coronavirus in Australia and the UK using graphs provided by the Financial Times (see below) illustrates the huge differences between the two countries. At its UK peak, just short of a 1,000 people were killed each day, while in Australia total deaths, that is total deaths, is just short of 100.
But regardless of the relevance of the Australian study to our shores, the Tories have already made up their minds: the teachers and school workers are wrong and the government are right. In their own profit-driven minds our capitalist leaders are apparently always right. This in spite of the glaring fact that the entire world can see that the British government has failed at every hurdle.
What is now clear, as if it wasn’t evident already, is that the real heroes in Britain are our key workers, which includes all education staff.
Increasing numbers of these pandemic heroes are fighting back against our governments capitalist lies, whether they work in food factories or in our schools, which in many sectors is being accompanied by a huge surge in union membership. And many people are now beginning to realise that capitalism has not and will not deliver us the goods, and more and more people are seeing the need to fight back for a socialist alternative that can place the everyday needs of ordinary people before the profits of big business.