Using the topical meeting of 99yr old Sir Captain Tom Moore and 5yr old Tony Hudgell- inspired this;
We merge the social and educational services that currently exist in isolation across our towns, both physically and culturally. Immediately we make use of our empty High Street buildings to reconfigure all schools and community services into merged environments. Nursery, Primary and Secondary education happen alongside community provision of libraries, special needs and care for the elderly. Thus our town and village centres become our place of learning and growing. It becomes natural for elderly to walk into a complex to get a coffee, to play mah-jong with friends, to sit and read in the library or to do some craft work in the craft rooms. In just a few years it will be natural for a school teacher to call on an elderly person to assist them. An elderly person can assist with reading or teaching or to help garden in the playground plot (every school will have a community vegetable plot). There are many elderly persons who do not have their own grandchild (nearby) to be able to extend their life worth on to the next generation. However as part of a local community hub where they go to socialise, get a library book, print out a letter, see the Doctor, they will be a known person and as such will not be strange to teachers, children or other community members. Thus every settlement that currently deserves a school will soon have a community hub dealing with far more that just teaching the 1-10 yr olds.
We are / were charmed on holidays seeing ladies in black sitting outside their doors on a street in a Mediterranean village knitting, not realise that they are performing an important role of watching children play, keeping an eye on behaviour and generally being a part of the community. Britain may not have the weather but it has banished the elderly into fear and isolation through the TV, care homes and “geriatric” facilities away from the flow of life. So we reinvent the “village” by having our schools and community activities as part of our Main Street, not on the periphery. Local shops will continue to be used but they will be alongside the Drs and the special needs clinic.
We capitalise on it by creating a healthier, integrated community, by making use of empty town centre premises for all those services currently flung to the outskirts. With or without pandemics this has to be the way for our High Streets to continue to exist – to redevelop as community hubs.