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School is in session

By Charlotte Coulson
01 September 2020

By Charlotte Coulson, Account Director

Today marks the first day back for many across the country, be they office workers being encouraged to come in once more, or students and teachers heading back into schools. Following a summer of less than positive news for the Department of Education, the number of pupils that actually return is being seen as a bellwether as to the effectiveness of Government messaging around safety in schools.

We spoke to several teachers to see how they felt about returning to the classroom. For some, where extensive measures have been taken and outlined, there is much more positivity whilst for others, nerves are running high.

As has been the case throughout this crisis, effectively communicating what measures are being taken to protect staff and pupils alike has been key – both in instilling confidence in the safety of being in school and in returning to some semblance of normality.

A Head of Department at a school in South London:

“I’ve been feeling confident about going back – my school has been well prepared and very good at communicating their risk assessments and what they’re doing to keep staff and pupils safe.

“My school has undertaken lots of measures to keep us all as safe as possible. They’ve increased parking for staff who don’t want to take public transport, created year group ‘bubbles’ so that teachers move from classroom to classroom in between classes rather than the pupils and there are staggered starts and finishes for lunch and break times.

“All students and staff have to sanitise before entering and leaving classrooms, and all desks are a metre apart with clear screens now placed in front of each teacher’s desk. The whole school is also being fumigated every 30 days – the same process as used in hospitals and by TfL.

“While this all feels far from normal, there have been little things they’ve brought in to try and alleviate that. For example, while all school fixtures with other schools have been cancelled, we’re having inter year competitions instead so it’s not all doom and gloom!”

A teacher at a school in North London:

“I was really anxious thinking about it last night. I didn’t sleep well and was really worried about what it was going to be like being back and how it would work. Now that I’m back it’s so nice to see everyone again and I’m so excited to see the students. I’ve genuinely really missed teaching and it’s nice to be back in a slightly more normal routine again.

“But as today has gone on, I’m starting to see how this is all working in practice and my anxiety has come back. We’re not in our usual classrooms – teachers are having to move around the school – but there’s no social distancing whatsoever with students. It’s more a case of teachers being expected to social distance from the pupils and that just isn’t feasible. There have been a lot of logistical issues too and confusion as to where we’re supposed to be teaching all of which is making me quite nervous.”

While the views from the teachers we spoke to are a snap shot of opinion, the return to school is being closely watched and will be a topic for significant debate, both political and social, in the weeks ahead.