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Cowardice and chaos: the government ‘plan’ for re-opening schools in September

Obviously no one who has ever had children or worked in a school had any input into the guidance released today for the re-opening of schools in September.
Head teachers now have 3 weeks to frantically cobble together a plan that will have significant effects of the working practices and wellbeing of school staff and children. I have firm faith in my colleagues and the staff at my children’s schools that they will continue to show the utmost dedication to our kids. The government has shirked all responsibility, making sweeping statements but providing little specific detail, leaving chaos in its wake.

Back in March, I thought schools should carry on for as long as possible as they provide so much more than just education. The government have shown through the opening of pubs and theme parks that they value the economy higher than education. One of my schools is providing food hampers to children as the free school meals vouchers have been fraught with problems.
I have previously described the government response to the coronavirus and reopening as lunacy and today has proved that ever more strongly to me. Pubic Health England announced today that there have been 40 incidents in educational settings last week but only 13 in hospitals.
So my assessment of today’s guidance highlights: absolutely breathtaking in its deniability and rejection of any accountability.
As mentioned above, the whole responsibility for re-opening has been shifted onto school leaders. The word ‘consider’ is used several times to avoid making direct instruction and leave the onus for interpretation to others.

Staff should social distance at 2 metres unless they can’t (simply one of the stupidest things I’ve heard)
No extra funding. Do you know how cash-strapped our schools are?!
PPA cover: teachers are entitled to planning, preparation and assessment time. This will be even more vital as they try to work out the knowledge gaps that home learning has created. PPA cover is often provided by an external provider who works with different groups but now people cannot go between bubbles so this will not be possible.
Cleaning: schools are deep cleaning at least once a week and teachers are doing mini cleans during the day. This will be completely unfeasible when the whole class is back in and 30 sets of eqiupment need to be cleaned. I can’t even imagine how tricky this will be in secondary schools with 200 in a year group, travelling from class to class. Plus there is no budget to get extra resources so lessons will have to be devised into segregated tasks to manage with the equipment available.
Transport: one of my schools has a bus. How many children will be allowed on at once? Can the school get extra funding to put on more transport? No!

Staggered timings. I cannot even fathom how secondary schools will manage timetables. If children have staggered starts, breaks, lunch and finish times then how can staff be used efficiently? A teacher may have several year group bubbles but the lesson times may be different for each, plus I expect cleaning of chairs and tables will need to happen in between, so school days may lengthen: how will this affect staff wellbeing and their own families? Will school transport wait for the late finishers and where will the early finishers wait?
As a parent I wonder how I will cope with 3 different start and finish times. Will I be forced to wait with 50+ other parents and siblings.
Uniform: all of the schools I work at or that my chilrdren attend have insisted on clean clothes every day. Now that it not necessary according to the new guidance and uniform should be used to set ‘an appropriate tone’.

Mental health. I have been anxious about Zach going back to preschool with less than 15 children in the setting. I will be very nervous about all of them being back with 30 just in their bubble. I will be stressed about staying away from my parents to reduce the risk of the children transmitting the virus to them. The wellbeing of the children will obviously be affected by my own and that of the stressed staff trying to manage under incredibly difficult circumstances, with heightened responsibility that has been imposed by the cowards in government. The mental health of my colleagues is also the responsibility of the leaders and this must be extremely stressful as assessment and publication of data resumes.
Let’s be clear. The virus has not gone. Nearly 44,000 people have lost their lives and we are risking our population by providing lacklustre information. I completely support the return to school but it has been mishandled.
I am angry, shocked and disappointed. The cowards in government keep talking about common sense while refusing to show any (anyone fancy a drive to test eyesight?) and creating chaos and fear instead of reassurance. Despite the unfairness of the abandoned responsibility, thank goodness they have put our wonderful school leaders in charge of fixing this mess who are committed to the welfare of our country’s children. Unlike the cronies at Westminster…

13 comments

  1. I have heard about kids going back to school in September but I haven’t taken much notice. It sounds ridiculous.
    It is unfair that it has all been put onto the school leaders and most probably mostly into the teachers hands. They are going to have enough to do getting the kids caught up without all the extra cleaning too.
    I am already annoyed at the transport situation. We have been told that my teen’s bus pass to get to college will be going up in price from £30 a year to at least £70 because they have to put extra buses on to make sure people social distance. I know it’s cheaper than having to pay the normal bus fares but it is a lot to pay out in one go for us.
    My youngest girls school already have staggered lunch breaks but it’s still always packed in the dining hall. I have a feeling they’ll be setting up tables in the assembly hall too.
    I will not be buying extra uniform for my youngest so she can have clean clothes every day, not when it costs so much with the school logo on.
    The thought of my two going back to school and college does worry me x

  2. I really don’t know what to say. I was nervous about the kids going back to school here and our numbers, for now, are nothing on yours. We get mysterious cases at schools where no one in the child’s family has it and no one knows how they got it. In my State our numbers are low and I still look at the numbers each day trying to analyse risk. We too, however, have the feeling we have to do the job that the govt is not really managing correctly. Stay safe, look after yourself and your stress levels. And good luck. #Dreamteam

  3. It’s a strange and confusing time in the world – that’s for sure! My daughter returned to nursery at the start of June and I am happy and comfortable that she is safe and being well cared for in the environment they have provided. Obviously schools are a different beast, but lets hope everyone can work together to come up with an acceptable solution to allow us to start getting back on with life. Unfortunately this virus is something we are all going to be living with for quite some time. #DreamTeamLinky

  4. It is worrying. My twins have gone back to school and I feel pretty confident at the moment as the school are being very cautious – they’re in bubbles of just 9 and only Rec and Yr 6 are in. I don’t know how any of the measures will be able to work with all the kids back in at once. I’m going to be teaching Reception in September and have no idea what it will look like if the kids can’t learn in the ways they normally would in Early Years. Have to see how it all pans out I guess! #dreamteam

  5. I have the same concerns as yourself, especially regarding the governments lack of real commitment and the school run. My sons primary school has 3 classes in each year group so I can’t imagine how that will work. I do have confidence in the management however, at the moment it seems like a miracle would come in handy. Many of my friends work in schools and they are already feeling very anxious. #DreamTeam

  6. Mine isn’t back to school until September, so we don’t really know first hand how things are going to look. But having said that, her school has definitely been tirelessly planning and putting measures in place for quite a while behind the scenes. I don’t think they were ever going to sit back and wait for straight answers from the government. I know we are incredibly lucky. #DreamTeamLinky

  7. It is totally disgraceful that they are not to be given any funding to make changes. Our headmistress has had to ask the PTA to buy some new desks needed to be able to separate the children as they won’t be given anything to make it happen. As you say money first since restaurants will be given assistance etc…

    I am very worried about their return, but we all NEED it to happen #DreamTeamLinky

  8. That’s a very heavy responsibility thrown on educators. It’s definitely not fair.
    I homeschool my little one, and at this crazy time (and with some schools in South Africa not even being properly equipped with basic necessities like running water), I’m so thankful that we’re able to do this. #DreamTeam

    • With our five year old already back at school I’m confident all the necessary procedures are in place at our school to welcome back the rest of the school in September – they have worked so hard to make it happen & so far everything is going really well #DreamTeamLinky

      • Laura

        I completely agree, the schools have risen to the challenge. My issue is with the government refusing to take any reponsibility or offering any actual rules or support for our wonderful education professionals

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