Analysis Breaking comment

Simple facts demolish Ashworth’s feeble back-to-school argument

Shadow Health Secretary’s support, during worst wave of pandemic, for Establishment line on schools shames Labour

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, has been amplifying Keir Starmer’s stubborn determination to get children back into the classroom, despite the fact that the UK is still in the middle of the most horrific wave of the coronavirus pandemic so far.

Starmer has for months ridden roughshod over the safety-based objections of school staff and their unions, from siding with the Tories and against unions over face-masks in classrooms to his infamous ‘no if no buts’ demand for schools to re-open last September – and Ashworth is still pushing his boss’s line, even though as Health Secretary he has no excuse for ignorance of the scientific consensus and eventual Tory admission that open schools drive the spread of the virus.

Ashworth today put out yet another Labour call for schools to open, couching it in language of concern for children’s mental health and obesity, in a tweet of a Daily Mirror article that shows even the notionally left ‘mainstream’ media are happy to endorse the hard-right’s demands to fling open school gates:

But a simple list of facts tweeted by the ‘ToryFibs‘ account blew apart Ashworth’s feeble argument:

Boris Johnson this week repeated his claim that ‘schools are safe’, even though he had to admit that they are key ‘vectors’ for the spread of the disease. But the brutal reality of COVID in schools is that children are suffering effects worse than any Ashworth listed – and keeping schools open is deadly not only for teachers, but also for vulnerable family members of children attending school.

Vaccinating teachers will not prevent transmission among children who then carry the virus back to their families and communities – and Ashworth’s shallow parroting of right-wing propaganda to call for schools to open fully shames the party that created the NHS and is supposed to have the wellbeing of all working-class people at the very core of its policies and positions.

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  1. Starmer & Ashworth’s obsession is attracting Tory voters like flies to…. ⚠️⚠️⚠️

  2. “Health, wellbeing and obesity….”

    I’m guessing he hasn’t seen the curriculum imposed by Gove and Cummings. How are his fronted adverbials coming along?

    1. – “…Ashworth’s shallow parroting of right-wing propaganda…” , Yes, that’s Ashworth. Spot on, especially the “shallow parroting” bit ⚠️⚠️⚠️

      1. p.s. Do u remember the “leak” of Ashworth and his Tory chum insulting Jeremy? Think he called it humour. Suspect it was “leaked” deliberately by Ashworth to humiliate Jeremy. That’s just a feeling. Fact though is that Ashworth like Keith are fetid deposits for flies / Tories. The flies suck up the muck, liquify and or vomit the mess to suck it up again… i think… ANYWAY, that is Ashworth and Starmer. That is their state and fate. No matter how much money they make in the end, they will be roaming the earth like the tortured undead. Just see the bleak grey pathetic Blair. The war criminal is craving attention… desperate for attention. Even despots realised a decades ago that Blair is a complete self serving shallow regurgitating regurgitated orange mess⚠️⚠️⚠️

      2. Never forget the malign Mandelson. Ashworth and Starmer may be the frontmen, Blair may be the figurehead, but Mandelson…

  3. Labour sets out measures needed for full reopening of schools in March
    Below is the full text of Kate Green’s letter to Gavin Williamson.
    Dear Gavin,
    A huge amount of preparation and planning is required in order to ensure that schools can open to all pupils as quickly and as safely as possible, and to build trust and confidence among parents, pupils and staff that the government is up to the challenge. The impact of almost a year of disruption to schooling has the potential to have lifelong scarring effects on a generation of children, and action to address this must be your priority. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said he hoped schools would return to full reopening from 8th March at the earliest. Parents, pupils and staff need clarity and certainty about the government’s plans, and I am writing to you now in the hope you will answer the questions that the schools improvement minister could not or would not answer in the House on Tuesday.
    Will you as a matter of urgency set out a credible plan for school reopening which outlines clearly and precisely what you believe needs to happen for schools and other education settings to be able fully to reopen? Both the Health Secretary and schools minister have outlined a range of measures that will inform this decision, such as NHS pressure and capacity, infection rates, and the challenges that are posed by new variants. However, your department has failed to set out the specific benchmarks for these metrics that will determine when schools can welcome all pupils back to the classroom. What are they?
    The Health Secretary had previously said that pupils may not return until the summer term, but the Prime Minister has now confirmed he hopes to commence the reopening from 8 March. Can you tell me in what order pupils will return to the classroom? Will it be exam years first, primary schools first, or a regional variation? Will some pupils still be out of school until the summer term?
    Can you outline the measures you will implement to ensure that, once fully open, schools will be able to remain open to all pupils? Can you provide a rationale for your decision to rule out the use of rotas to help more children return to the classroom, and publish any underlying scientific advice you have received on this issue?
    What steps is your department taking to increase both the amount of space available for teaching, including seeking sites for Nightingale classrooms – using other vacant and publicly available buildings to create additional space for teaching – and to ensure that pupils are taught in settings that are safe, socially distanced, and well ventilated? Will the government review its guidance on the use of face coverings in secondary schools to require these in communal areas and corridors?
    After the chaotic announcement of mass testing in schools before Christmas, will you guarantee schools will have the personnel, space and capacity to carry out testing of pupils and staff when they return? Earlier this month, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency expressed concern about the government’s planned testing programme, will you guarantee testing procedures are in line with scientific advice and publish the evidence you hold on this?
    Vaccinating school staff would prevent further disruption to pupils’ education, avoiding children being out of school due to staff absence. Labour have called for education staff to be vaccinated in February half term as part of our national effort to reopen schools. Will you commit to implementing this proposal?
    For as long as pupils are learning remotely both children and parents need far more support to continue learning and balance the demands of work and supporting their children. Can you guarantee that every child will have the resources they need to access learning remotely? Are you able to give a clear deadline for reaching your target of providing 1.3 million devices, and will they all be in place before February half term?
    For parents who are struggling to balance the demands of working and supporting their children’s learning, will you provide a legally enforceable right to request flexible furlough as Labour has called for?
    Finally, as we look to the months and years ahead, we cannot allow this generation of young people to become the Covid generation, defined by the learning and opportunities they have lost, and the huge consequences it could have for their life chances. Can you guarantee that all options are on the table for supporting pupils to catch up on the learning they have lost, as a first step to guaranteeing they will not be robbed of opportunity because of the government’s handling of this pandemic? Can you confirm that the £300 million announced by the Prime Minister today represents new, additional, funding, and outline the steps that your department will take to ensure that it reaches those pupils who are most in need of it?
    Education staff, from leaders and teachers to teaching assistants and support staff, have done an extraordinary job in immensely difficult circumstances to keep children learning throughout the pandemic, in and outside the classroom. They should be key partners for your department in getting children back to school smoothly. Along with parents and pupil they rightly expect urgent and honest answers. I hope you are able to provide them.
    Yours sincerely,
    Kate Green MP
    Shadow Secretary of State for Education

    1. Maybe you can tell us WHY Starmer and Green want to vaccinate teachers during half-term? (I’m assuming they mean ALL school staff – even though they have “forgotten” 50% of the staff in schools! (Not a good show, eh?). That would mean a million people vaccinated in a week …. and a million old folk and the vulnerable NOT vaccinated. I see that the experts are suggesting that this would mean MANY old folk would be condemned to die…..

      This is all about child-minding, NOT education.

      Schools CANNOT go back whilst their parents are still socialising, going to overcrowded weddings and funerals, having house parties, mixing in offices and factories with no precaustions in place, taking foreign holidays, wandering the country, and generally acting like xxxxholes.

      Ill-thought out claptrap from Labour, just like it has been for ten months.

      1. Joe – You are of course entitled to your opinion but I suggest you may be better informed if you follow the link and read the full article (incl the letter in full).

      2. Steve H.

        Thankyou for informing me how to become better informed.

        I’m a retired Headteacher. I know rather a lot about schools, but thanks for the advice.

  4. Ashworth’s doing Starmer’s bidding.
    Like the rest of that shadow cabinet He has only got his position by making it clear he won’t challenge Starmer on anything as it seems Starmer doesn’t like anyone questioning his opinion and probably the real reason RLB was sacked.

    It appears that Starmer will never admit he’s wrong even when there are lives at stake.
    Take the Twitter Joke trial
    Starmer would have made the decision to OK the original prosecution of Paul Chambers for making a silly joke on twitter. And then wouldn’t back down even when a court didn’t agree with the original prosecution.

    There are obvious parallels with Starmer’s withdrawal of whip from Jeremy Corbyn despite NEC finding him having done nothing wrong.

      1. Joe – I’m guessing he spends time with his family plus he regularly plays football on a Sunday.

      2. The Chinese are using him… Starmer Anal Swab. Ask SH, it will tell u all about it in some detail with relish re inserting and rotating Starmer. They can’t rotate Starmer left though🥀🥀🥀

  5. Children must have changed a lot if they’re really as vulnerable as people seem to think.
    Being evacuated from London in the war – sent to live with strangers, separated from their parents – I’d think that was far more traumatic than not being able to go to school.
    Believe it or not there are children who don’t actually like school that much.
    As far as being held back in the job market goes that’s a simple matter of legislation to prevent them being discriminated against for something they had no control over.
    Spend more money on education, further education, remedial education and expanding higher education. Ditch fees and loans and bring back maintenance grants. You know – like Labour ought to be arguing for anyway.
    Piece of piss. Job done.
    Next please.

      1. Which Starmer will unilaterally change at any time.
        He has made no firm commitment to it.
        Also I fully anticipate changes to rules so that decisions at Conference are only advisory.

      2. Steve H,
        The bit about not actually making a definite commitment to abolishing student fees was fact.
        The rest was speculation based on his behavior.

      3. Iain -This is shat Keir Starmer said about tuition fees just a few fays ago.

        “Tuition fees is a huge debt for young people that they carry with them for a very long time, and that’s why we rightly committed at the last election to getting rid of tuition fees.” He added that other forms of higher education must be factored in.
        Asked whether the policy was still a priority, he replied: “Yeah, it is… It’s about how you see education: do you see this as a benefit just for the individual who’s being educated, or do you see education as something where if we educate people that is a good thing for all of us?”

      4. Steve H – The item you quoted just had Starmer suggesting that abolishing student fees is a good thing.
        There was no absolute commitment to abolishing them immediately he could and no mention of what would replace them (student tax?)
        Bit like agreeing that Nuclear Weapona should be be banned but no commitment to actually doing anything.
        IMO This is Blair style weasel words intended to confuse those with a limited grasp of English Comprehension.
        Remember the denial of the infamous 45min claim.

      5. Iain – Would you rather he signed a pledge like Nick did.
        Labour’s manifesto will be presented at the appropriate time as a complete policy platform for the future of our country . For now its enough to know the general outline, the detail can come later.
        It would be politically naive several years out from the election to carve any policy detail into an edstone . Why would we want to give the Tories the opportunity to spend the next few years thwarting any detailed policy that Labour promised for the next election now.

        Have you forgotten that Keir Starmer opposed the Iraq war.

    1. The fundamental issues in the English education system all trace back to social class. One can be as thick as a plank, but going to the right school will get you a decent job or occupation with ease.
      All the educational changes – called “reforms” by those who imposed them – have degraded the concept of education as practiced in the state system. For evidence, I cite my 40 odd years as a teacher in the 11 to 18 age range in schools and sixth-form college. Real education liberates and empowers, but our children are imprisoned by inadequacy.
      Labour have always followed the Tories in their fundamental thinking in this area. Since Thatcher, Blunkett, Clarke and Balls were as bad as any Tory in their thinking and actions. I see little difference in Green at the moment.

      1. For David McNiven30/01/2021 AT 10:37 PM
        Well said. My reply has gone astray

    2. ps and free technical colleges, day release and expansion of occupational training – supporting everything from medicine/nursing/care work to wind generator building/installation/rigging/seamanship.
      We need to rebuild an industrial base.
      There’s merit in converting existing cars to electric and building the infrastructure to support the changeover to electric – streetside charging is essential though, and a pavement-edge installation design prize competition should begin now.
      Electric vehicles is an industry we should be growing and skills we should be teaching. Electric vehicles can also be used as inverter ballast for the national grid.
      For new industry and employment to thrive though, we have to ditch the Tories and their idiotic post-industrialist belief that the City, house prices and shopping can sustain an economy indefinitely and we can always import what we can’t make.

      1. David what you are saying is obviously correct,but the chattering classes will not !listen until the wolfs at the door.And then they will blame the working-class for being lazy and feckless.

  6. Remember the days of manufacturing B4 Thatcher & Blair? The promise of that nice Harold Wilson, ‘the white heat of technology’,& the introduction of service industry culture supported by cheap labour; the Globalism of the EU & the ‘gig’ economy.

    Remember the days of ‘apprenticeships when tradespeople taught apprentices a trade, but now that’s the job of the taxpayer. Amazing how easily education became skill training after generations of Tory/Blair government. Uncritical education from Primary to Tertiary Education with ‘Big Business’ controlling the finances & curriculum of Universities. The Tory Dream.

    The Blair/Brown extension of the Thatcherite Dream only ensures that Education is utilitarian & the student only serves the business interests of employers. Thatcher destroyed manufacturing to destroy ‘Union Power’ to replace it with a more compliant service industry. Globalisation & outsourcing ensures wages remain low. Good to share the dystopian vision of the captains industry, in which the economy must always grow.

    Electric cars in 5 years; the power surge @ certain times will be enough to destroy the grid. Look forward to road pricing to replace road tax as wages will continue to fall. What happens to the cost of labour when there is a surplus? Who will pick up the bill for the pandemic? Who always picks up the bill? The revolution will not be born @ our Universities.

    1. I can remember the days of indentured Apprenticeship and the plumbers being part of the plumbers and painters union.I recieved three pounds 14and fourpence of which ten shillings went to the union a pound to build up my tool kit and a pound to my mum.The rest was in bus fare to Leigh corporation from my home in Bolton.I left the house at 530 from Eagley in Bolton for the long bus ride changing at moor lane in the centre of Bolton and taking the Atherton bus.And then the collapse of the cotton industry came along with the closure of Eagley mills..My mum and dad faced bankruptcy in their shops and cafe and thats another story.At least we felt we had a future…look at us now a working-class without representation,and a Labour party voted in a knight of the realm….Thank god I am sheltering in the jungle away from all that greed and corruption.

  7. Yawn when this cult commits itself to a stupid policy, oh boy do they double and triple down on the stupid! No matter how obvious to everyone how reckless and stupid reopening schools will be…

    So it’s just rinse and repeat the ever-growing pile of bodies as they spread the virus a bit more? Now how is that going to help the kids or there soon to be dead parents?

    Oh this wonderful idea of vaccinate the school staff now remind me how long is it until after the 2nd jab full protection is given? 3-4 weeks so that shows vaccinating in half term just one jab is worthless and yet again ill thought out as usual!

    Or is this to appease the millionaires this cult is cosying up to for cash these days? Because that’s what sure as hell it sounds like to me..

  8. Two thoughts:
    1) Never forget that Ashworth is married to the infamous, treacherous Emily Oldknow (formerly of Labour HQ, with several mentions in Labour’s leaked report), and who was Sir Starmer’s preferred choice to replace Jennie Formby as Gen Sec;

    2)) Re: “better support for vulnerable children”: this is poppycock. Schools have always been open for vulnerable children. And teachers are in constant contact w/ families who are finding it hard to cope, one way and another.

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