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Affordable Daycare for Working Parents in the Post-COVID Era

by John Brian Shannon

Most people who work in Britain’s National Health Service have children — whether those NHS workers are Doctors, Surgeons or other professionals, or are Hospital maintenance staff — the vast majority of them have children who live at home.

Which isn’t a problem when there’s no Coronavirus going ’round.

But during the first wave of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, many parents were forced to choose between going to work so they can pay their mortgage, or staying at home to care for their children. A terrifying choice for parents. And it created a terrifying problem for the NHS because at the time the national healthcare service needed the maximum number of staff — NHS staff were booking time off work to stay at home with their kids.

Fortunately, the NHS has a list of former employees and another list of people who had applied to work for the NHS but hadn’t yet been selected. This worked as a kind of pressure relief valve, although it couldn’t replace the vast number of Moms or Dads who took leave to care for their youngsters.

And that, friends, isn’t the best way to run a railroad!


Daycare Located Near the Workplace for Working Parents

Now that the second COVID-19 wave is starting, some jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S. and Australia are telling parents that school opening dates will be delayed, perhaps indefinitely. And I expect the same will happen in the UK over the coming weeks as the second wave hits with even greater impact than the first wave.

And again the NHS will have parents taking time off work to take care of their suddenly school-less children. Of course, as I wrote above, there are some, repeat some former NHS people and some future hires that the health service can access to alleviate staffing shortages during the second wave, but it won’t be enough to cover the shortfall.

It’s no wonder that healthcare workers were posting images of themselves on social media earlier this year to show us what it looks like to work 12-15 hours per day in a Hospital while wearing uncomfortable PPE and working in unusually crowded conditions with overtired co-workers. Not the ideal situation for healthcare outcomes.

What the NHS needs to do is to offer free daycare for parents and locate it within one block of the Hospital where one or both of the parents work.

Mom (or Dad) who works at the Hospital simply drops junior off at the daycare facility located across the street from the Hospital, and then picks up the child on the way home — for as many days as school remains closed. So obvious!

This should’ve started in the 1950’s when women began working away from home. And not only the NHS should’ve been doing this since then, but the National Healthcare Service serves as a poignant example for this discussion.

All medium-to-large companies should offer free daycare within one block of their factory, office tower, or retail shopping mall: It would be a major benefit to working parents, it would be a benefit to companies so they don’t have workers taking time off work to look after their kids, and it would be a benefit to society.

That’s why it should be mandated by legislation, backed by educators of preschool and school age children, and backed by companies.

Perhaps a tax break for companies that purchase and operate an appropriately-sized daycare centre across the street from their location is the way to get it done — Pronto!

Rethinking the UK Education System in the Coronavirus Era

by John Brian Shannon

It turns out that Coronavirus didn’t magically disappear during 3-months of lockdown, in fact, it seems to be back with a vengeance. And while treatment has improved, those already hit with the nasty virus may have permanent heart damage according to experts who now say that 2/3rds of all COVID-19 survivors suffer from decreased heart function.

Heart Damage Even After COVID-19 ‘Recovery’ Evokes Specter of Later Heart Failure (MedScape.com)

Yes, the miracle drug (hopefully!) Remdesivir may turn COVID-19 from a killer disease into a week or two of self-isolation and flu-like symptoms (which is bad enough, but it beats dying from the Novel Coronavirus) however it doesn’t stop people from catching it. Remdesivir helps patients recover more quickly from the disease — especially the very ill — but nowhere in the literature that accompanies the medicine does it say that it prevents COVID-19.

Coronavirus drug remdesivir to cost $2,340 per patient in the U.S. (GlobalNews.ca)

And (you’ll hate this part) the present Coronavirus strain is merely one version of the larger Coronavirus family with newer versions appearing at irregular intervals. So my bet is that there will be another COVID crisis — perhaps with a more serious variant than the present SARS-CoV-2 (which most people know by the name COVID-19, or the Novel Coronavirus)

Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it (WHO.int)

And now, cats, dogs and ferrets are dying from Coronavirus. Which is not great, as they roam everywhere and like to lick their friends and family to greet them — making pets potential carriers of the disease to unsuspecting humans and to other pets.

Exclusive: ‘Buddy’ first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. has died (NationalGeographic.com)

So, it looks like Coronavirus is going to be around for a long time; Yes, the treatment is improving, but it’s still a serious disease even with presently available treatments. And a vaccine seems like it will be ‘only a year or two away’ for the next five years — if you take my meaning.


With the “R Rate” Increasing and School Openings Looming, Now’s the Time to Rethink the UK Education System

According to Cambridge University, the R-rate (the rate at which a virus is retransmitted to others) is over 1 to 1, and may be as high as 1 to 1.04 in some parts of the UK.

And that means the UK is (temporarily) losing the battle against COVID-19 — no doubt due to the recently relaxed lockdown and with thousands of people visiting beaches, packed pubs, and other public spaces without the dual disciplines of mask-wearing and regular handwashing.

Coronavirus R rate ‘above one’ in some parts of UK amid second wave fears (TheMirror.co.uk)

So, people, let’s get real. Coronavirus is here to stay. Which means it’s time to make some decisions. These aren’t the kinds of decisions that we can chew on for months;

These are ‘August decisions’ — which means these decisions must be made in August 2020. And these may well turn out to be life and death decisions so don’t shirk your responsibilities to your family and community.


In the Quest for Efficiency, Schools Have Been Getting Larger Every Decade (which is great for efficiency!) But it’s Also Great for Virus Retransmission

Maybe now is the time to reverse the economic efficiency mandate and do what’s best for children’s health, for family health, and for pet health as it may turn out that pets are major retransmitters of Coronavirus.

Think of a school system where all children in Grade I and Grade II attend their classes in one building, while Grades III and IV attend their school in a different location (maybe only blocks away for the convenience of parents who drop-off and pick-up their different-aged kids from school) and Grades V and VI in a different school — again, not too far apart; just let’s have them not breathing the same air.

  • None of those proposed schools should have more than 100 pupils per location.
  • Grades I and II (for example) plus teachers and vice-principal shouldn’t total more than 120 people.
  • That keeps the cohort of potential COVID-19 infections to a small number of people.
  • And similar applies for other grades; III and IV in another school, V and VI in another location, and grades VII and VIII in another building, etc.,
  • Gymnasiums could be in a 5th (nearby) location, and employ a reservation system.

YES! Schools would become more numerous, much smaller and more quickly built!

If China can build two Coronavirus hospitals in one week, the UK should be able to build two 100-pupil schools per county, per week, in the UK.

How China Built Two Coronavirus Hospitals in Just Over a Week (WallStreetJournal.com)

All that needs doing is to source the land and plunk some fast-build structures in place designed to hold 120-people.

If you know anything about construction challenges — that’s about the smallest challenge ever offered to large construction firms! — especially if they decide to use ‘modular’ design, and much of the construction could be done in factories that already produce construction-site oriented buildings or other temporary buildings.

Companies all over the UK could be building these structures during August and deliver them in time for the beginning of the school year. ‘On-time and On-budget’ please!

High School kids might need to wait a few weeks for their buildings to be delivered, but nothing that would stop them from completing their studies by June 2021.


Parents, School Districts and Various Levels of Government: Now is NOT the Time to be Timid; Now is the Time to Leap Forward to a Decentralized School Buildings Model!

There are some great school buildings in the UK — some with a brilliant history. Sir Isaac Newton was schooled in the UK, for example.

And there’s no doubt that special buildings should be preserved as an entire generation switches over to small cohort school buildings. Such valuable buildings could become museums, City Hall office spaces, office space for MP’s and doctors/dentists, etc., or be carefully preserved and listed — but leased to companies for office space.

But for now, keeping kids safe should be the main concern.

Decentralizing the present school buildings/location model might be the way to dramatically lower the R-rate and simultaneously prevent the UK economy from failing during future waves of Coronavirus (or other virus) infections throughout the country.

And we can do that by keeping cohort sizes small among school-aged children by educating them in small, relatively inexpensive, modular school buildings, in handy locations for parents and kids in each and every neighbourhood throughout the UK.

As COVID-19 appears to be with us indefinitely, it’s time to build new and smaller schools and thereby reduce future retransmission of infectious diseases.

UK-born Children of Foreign parents: UK Citizens, or Not?

by John Brian Shannon | April 17, 2017

It seems logical that when a child is born in a given country that he or she should automatically be awarded citizenship in that country — while the parents obviously continue to be citizens of their own country. But in a surprising number of countries that’s not how it works.

As in Saudi Arabia and other countries, so it is in the United Kingdom — as recently and publicly reaffirmed by the Home Office in the case of a Dutch couple whose child was born in the UK.

Once a baby decides they want to be born, where the Mother and Father happen to be at that point in time is completely irrelevant. Some of you may have had that experience.

It seems counter-intuitive in the extreme to deny a person born in a country… citizenship in that country.

Imagine what it would’ve been over the past 100-years if every British parent had to travel to the appropriate UK government office with reams of paperwork to prove the entire family tree, thereby allowing the child to have the right of British citizenship?

The population of Britain would’ve never reached 65-million. Ever! People would’ve thought twice about having children, some would’ve decided to not have any at all, while other kids would’ve been adopted to foster-parents in other countries. That’s not the way to grow an economy!

You’re either born in the country and therefore automatically a citizen of the country with all the rights and responsibilities thereof, or you’re born outside of the country and are a visitor, student, diplomat, or an invited worker with impressive credentials who was offered citizenship by the government.

But being a citizen isn’t all about the rights and privileges of citizenship, there are also the responsibilities of citizenship.

Britain - Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country... JFK

Citizen Rights and Responsibilities

For one; Every citizen is a potential ‘brand ambassador’ for their country; Whether a tourist in the UK asks for directions from a Briton, or if the British ‘brand ambassador’ is travelling outside the country, they are representing Britain 24/7 to the people around them in every word and every action whether they like it or not. Such words and actions are carefully watched in many countries. And it could occur that they are called upon to verbally discuss or defend a certain policy, or even the distant history of Britain — something at which all UK citizens should be exceptionally skilled. Training for this should begin at a young age and continue throughout their education.

Two; During wartime, able-bodied people are expected to shoulder some amount of burden to defend the country.  This can range from flying a warplane as the great flying ace Billy Bishop did for Britain and Canada (he was a Canadian who flew for the RAF in WWI) or, as in the American example, ‘Rosie the Riveter’ who left housewifely duties behind for 8-12 hours per day to rivet aircraft frames together as part of the WWII effort.

If you are willing to fight for Britain during wartime, then unquestionably, you are worthy of British citizenship. If you’re unwilling to fight for the UK, you’re unworthy of UK citizenship. It’s the ultimate citizenship litmus test!

Britain - Rosie the Riveter assembled aircraft 8-12 hours per day for the WWII war effort

‘Rosie the Riveter’ — Hundreds of thousands of American women assembled aircraft and manufactured weapons 8-12 hours per day during WWII. U.S. government poster.

Third; Able-bodied people are expected to become educated and contribute to the overall economy of the UK. Of course, they’re free to choose their university education and their career. But at the end of the day it’s not unreasonable to expect their choices will result in a net gain for the country, whether a cultural gain (an artist or homeless shelter worker, for example) or a true economic gain (a typical blue-collar or white-collar worker) or a clerical gain. It may be that they choose to serve their country in academia or in government. In any event, citizenship carries with it the obligation to contribute to the country that provided them with relative peace and prosperity, and a good education.

Fourth; The UK government should enact legislation that requires one year of compulsory military service to be served by age 25. If you’re a British citizen enjoying all of the rights and privileges of British society it’s completely reasonable to expect some sort of contribution to the national defense.

Of course, such gap-year military cadets may well find themselves helicoptered into flood ravaged regions to assist local authorities, or they may be learning how to fly a light aircraft, or working on a national infrastructure project where the military corps of engineers are building or rebuilding part of the national motorway system.

Britain would benefit by having students work on national infrastructure projects during their gap-year.

Personnel from RAF High Wycombe recreate the iconic Beatles Abbey Road album cover, parading the Armed Forces Day Flag on Armed Forces Day which falls on June 24th in 2017. Image courtesy of AECOM

During their gap-year military service, all of their necessities should be covered including free medical and dental coverage, food and shelter, and many recreational activities could be included.

In short, they should be encouraged to — learn hard, work hard and play hard — which the most successful nations have always done. And the least successful, haven’t.

At the end of their gap-year military service each cadet should receive a generous scholarship to the UK college or university of their choice. For those who wish to continue serving their country in the military, they should receive an equally generous scholarship that leads them toward a higher rank.

By creating a young cohort of military conscripts who can choose when to serve their gap-year military service, every young Briton will emerge from that military training as significantly brighter, bolder and more experienced citizens with skills that the young people of most countries won’t ever have.

That’s the way to build a smarter, stronger and more capable UK society, on the way to Building a Better Britain!