Coronavirus: ‘Teachers have been heroes and will adapt’

It is the ‘natural instincts’ of schools to educate say union leaders
19th March 2020, 4:27pm


Coronavirus: ‘Teachers have been heroes and will adapt’
Coronavirus: Child Studying

Teachers have been “heroes” and will continue to “do what they can” to help pupils learn despite the coronavirus crisis, union leaders have said.

Earlier today, education secretary Gavin Williamson said that schools remaining open after Friday’s mass closure will not be “an educational setting” but a “safe place” for critical workers to leave their children.

But unions remain optimistic that schools will find a way to keep teaching against all odds - as staff forced to stay at home are “still showing a preparedness and a willingness to contribute in whatever way they can”.

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Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said after schools shut tomorrow “education as we know it” will be over for the time being, but it will be in the “natural instincts” of schools to deliver learning.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said that - while things will certainly be “different” - teachers will be “adaptable to the circumstances they face”.

And Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), added that the aim going forward will be to provide “continuity of learning”, and schools have already prepared resources for this purpose.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson announced yesterday that schools across England are to close “until further notice” after gates shut on Friday.

This will be for all pupils except children of key workers and those who are most vulnerable.

This morning, Mr Williamson revealed more details of the schools that will remain open with a skeleton staff over the coming weeks.

He told BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme: “It’s not going to be an educational setting, they’re not going to be teaching the national curriculum, but it’s going to be a safe place for people who are key to combating this virus and keeping the country moving forward.”

Asked what this will mean for teachers, Dr Bousted said: “Teachers have always cared for children, they have never just delivered lessons. I think that’s an important point to make.

“And teachers will be adaptable to the circumstances they face.”

She added: “Teachers have gone above and beyond the cause…in this crisis it is teachers, along with NHS staff, who have been on the frontline.

“Those teachers who have kept society going will do what they can, but there will be no expectation of them.”

Mr Whiteman said: “I think the natural instincts of schools will be to deliver learning.

“And keeping children safe isn’t just putting them in a safe space - it’s keeping them occupied; keeping their brains occupied and engaged; and the natural instinct of school leaders and teachers will be to enrich knowledge, and enrich education in doing so.

“So it won’t look the same; I doubt there will be normal lessons.

“But no doubt there will be an educational element to this.”

‘Clear sense of national mission’

Mr Williamson has also said, where possible, the government is encouraging schools to stay open over the Easter holidays to support children of key workers, as well as vulnerable pupils.

Mr Barton said this would be a “challenge”, but there is “a clear sense of national mission and schools will do their best”.

He said: “Many school staff are in self-isolation and this number is likely to increase, and added to that many other staff will have family and other commitments.”

“So, it is likely to come down to the art of the possible. How many staff are available in your school and what sort of provision is it possible to put on with these numbers?”

Mr Whiteman added: “I am confident that school leaders and teachers will find a way to make this happen.

“We are hearing from school leaders, actually, all sorts of ideas on all of the outstanding questions - and we are gathering those ideas and that expertise as well. And we’ll be propagating that as we get to understand it.”

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