Monday 8th March marked children’s return to school as the first step on the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
While the reopening of schools has been a key focus for many when considering the loosening of Covid restrictions, teachers themselves have not been put forward as priority group in regards to vaccinations.
With SAGE’s continued recommendation to work from home, and only essential businesses staying open until at least the end of the month, children’s return to the classroom has raised fresh concerns over the welfare of teachers.
“There’s quite a few vulnerable teachers. And not just teachers, its the whole support support system in school.”
One London-based teacher says this comparison with other areas remaining closed “might have people more hesitant” as people are “not quite sure how you can say schools are safe but everything else in the community is shut.”
He explained “in my school in particular there’s quite a few vulnerable teachers. And not just teachers, its the whole support support system in school. Your office staff, to TA’s (teaching assistants), to technicians and your office staff, there’s a lot of vulnerable people in there who haven’t been vaccinated.
“I think the difference between teaching and other workplaces that stay open is that other workplaces have that protection for the staff… If you go to a shop you see a screen, social distancing, everyone is wearing a mask. But if you try to apply that to a classroom… Public schools will have about 30 kids in a room, plus the teacher, plus the TAs potentially. So you’ve got about 35 people in one room, with a door open and that’s for ventilation. It it does feel like schools have been neglected in terms of PPE. There hasn’t been that protection from the start.”
They went on to say a more phased return, potentially bringing back the later years in first, could have eased the process. They stated that for large schools going from no in-person contact to having thousands back “doesn’t feel right.”
Thoughts from a teacher on the return to face-to-face learning.
Despite this, teachers are in fact still keen to return to the classroom and are confident that any lost time can be made up for. The London-based teacher explained that “even when kids miss a few weeks off school normally, their ability to actually pick up that learning is astonishingly quick. So I think when we’re back in school we won’t see that [gap in learning] over a long period of time.”
“As educators we not only teach knowledge but we teach skills”
These thoughts are echoed by a Manchester based teacher, who says face-to-face teaching “not only gives students the best education possible, it allows us as teachers to respond to the specific needs of students immediately.
“Gaps can be bridged fairly easily within normal school parameters, as educators we not only teach knowledge but we teach skills… No matter how much content students have missed, they still have the basic skills they need to move forward. These skills can be used in future lessons and we can start to bring in “missed knowledge” to bridge the gap.”
The teachers featured in this article have asked to remain anonymous.