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Leader comment: Back to school

19 February 2021

THE success of the vaccination programme in the UK means that the first priority has been achieved, taking pressure off the NHS by reducing the number of people who would most probably become seriously ill if they contracted Covid-19. The reward for success is that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation could, if it chose, adjust the order in which different groups are offered the vaccine that it recommends to the Government. Different groups and professions have lobbied to climb up the vaccination list. If the Government is sincere about reopening schools, however, it should follow the example found overseas, in New York State and more than a score of others in the US, and offer vaccinations to all school staff. This is not a kindness, or an exercise in reassurance, but an eminently practical solution to the threat of staff absences. Staffing levels in most schools contain no slack. A teacher forced to self-isolate could mean dozens of children sent home, and further disruption to efforts to get their parents back to work. As Howard Dellar argues (Education, page 24), the relative immunity of children is a strong argument for a return to full occupancy as soon as possible — but only if the susceptibility of the adults around them is recognised and countered.


Radio waves

FORGET The Spectator: there is a far more troubling plot currently undermining the Church of England. We refer, of course, to The Archers, and Shula Archer’s journey towards ordination. The villagers discover a people-trafficker, Philip Moss, living in their midst. Shula visits him on remand in prison and loses control of the conversation and herself. Next, she is approached by Neil Carter, who wants to resign as churchwarden, and she ends up offloading her own “turmoil” on him about the flak that she has taken. Finally, she rounds on Kirsty, Moss’s betrayed bride, who wants to find and rescue the trafficked victims. Shula tells her: “I love you, Kirsty, but you are so, so lost. You can’t see right from wrong.” So much for the “extra-trustworthy, sympathetic sort of air” that Kirsty thought that she had. The one consolation is that the scriptwriter does not appear to expect Shula to say anything religious. None the less, everything that she does say sets the drive for vocations back another year or two.

Given the Archbishops’ new proactive policy in response to criticism, seen in their joint article to The Spectator, we fully expect them to turn up at St Stephen’s in Ambridge as soon as the lockdown lifts to restore the villagers’ faith in clergy selection.

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