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‘It’s been awful’: English secondary school teachers return first week | Secondary schools

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IIn England, after a Christmas break full of uncertainties over new restrictions, an increase in Omicron Covid cases and disrupted Christmas plans due to family members’ self-isolation, students returned to school at the beginning of January for a new term.

Just days before teachers returned to school, new advice emerged from the Department of Education (DfE) that all high school students should wear masks in classrooms in an attempt to stem a increased cases of the Omicron variant.

Three teachers in England talk about their first week of the term and their concerns for the weeks to come.

“I don’t think I have known him so badly since I started teaching almost 20 years ago”

“It was awful,” said Julia *, who teaches at a secondary school in London. “We had less than half of our students show up for a lateral flow test before the start of the term and many of our parents did not allow their children to be tested. “

Julia said she feels worried because students are reluctant to wear masks and a significant portion of their staff is sick. “We are already talking about having to send students home because we do not have enough coverage,” said the 50-year-old who has been practicing the profession for nearly 20 years. “I’m completely stung and I’ve had Covid twice – catching it up again is inevitable at this point.”

She said her school had a high number of disadvantaged children and the situation with Covid had become more difficult after years of little or no funding. “We don’t have enough toilets so we use portaloos and sometimes when it rains too much in my classroom there is flooding. In the end, it is the children who are the losers.

“I think this government is the absolute bottomless pit and the schools are drying up. Announcements are left at the last minute when comprehensive thinking would be of great help. Ultimately, good teaching happens when you can plan effectively. I don’t think I have known him so badly in schools since I started teaching.

“We feel paralyzed”

Tom, 40, deputy principal for Essex who heads his high school’s Covid response, said staff and student absences were at their highest level this quarter since the start of the pandemic.

“We leave a different age group at school every day and do tests there. But as we wait for the age groups to arrive, we see that the students are testing positive, ”he said. “So I spent a lot of my time educating staff about students who are positive, making sure e-learning is in place, and notifying families of their child’s return. We have so many of them that we had to put them on a centralized spreadsheet.

The school is well prepared for distance education, said Tom, but he is concerned about the understaffing. “In mid-December, we started to be quite affected. At the start of the vacation, I and 20% of my colleagues tested positive. This was my second positive result during the pandemic. It was obviously disarming for those of us who couldn’t see our families over Christmas time.

This legislature, the school introduced the compulsory wearing of masks in common areas, according to government directives. However, Tom is frustrated that the rule is unenforceable. “The DfE has said that no child should be denied an education if they refuse to wear a mask. The vast majority of our students are really good at it, but we feel a little crippled. The DfE does not seem able to make a decision.

“I don’t know how long I will be able to continue”

For Amanda * in Birmingham, the Covid situation at her school is better than they expected. “We haven’t had a lot of absences compared to other times during the pandemic,” the high school teacher said. “The absence of staff is very low and our children have complained incredibly about the masks. “

Its main concern is the lack of ventilation and the threat of an Ofsted inspection. “I have a CO2 monitor in my classroom, but I don’t really have any advice on how to use it. The readings seem normal, but if they get high what should I do? I already have the windows open.

“The workload is a huge issue right now. We try to help students catch up and prepare them for exams and teacher-assessed grades, while being under the threat of Ofsted hanging over us. This is a fear for many of us and it feels like the DfE has forgotten that teachers are not immune to the pressures of Covid, let alone preparing for an inspection. “

With the additional salary freeze starting in 2021, Amanda and her colleagues are feeling the pinch of continuing pressure. “Teaching used to be a well-paying job with a good retirement, but with inflation at an all-time high and energy bills rising now, I don’t know how long I can keep going. “

* Some names have been changed.

‘It’s been awful’: English secondary school teachers return first week | Secondary schools

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