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…