'Give all teachers a duvet day before Christmas'

In this toughest of terms, a small gesture goes a long way, says Maire O'Regan – who has given all her staff a duvet day
6th December 2020, 4:00pm
Maire O'Regan


'Give all teachers a duvet day before Christmas'

Coronavirus: Why All Teachers Deserve A Duvet Day Before The Christmas Holiday

I think every teacher in Britain should have a duvet day between now and Christmas. No questions, no qualifiers. Just: a free day off, to be taken any school day they want, between now and Christmas.

Does this sound radical? It really shouldn't.

It's what we've done at our school. The workload for teachers - already hard workers at the best of times - that's been generated by the constant changes this academic year has left teachers feeling utterly, bone-numbingly exhausted.

Changes at short notice, and the constant worry about the wellbeing of children and their families - and, often, isolation from their own families - have all taken their toll on teachers. We've spent almost a whole term now trying to beat back an invisible threat, and it's left us scared, tired and drained.

Coronavirus: Teachers are scared, tired and drained

Staff are working in "bubble groups", isolated with small groups of children or adults. It means that at lunchtime teachers aren't able to mix and be together for that treasured time, when they're able to meet other adults. 

Teaching in a classroom can be a lonely job. Lunchtimes and breaktimes are the only times when the adults get to share their thoughts, stresses and fears. That interaction has been taken away because of Covid-19, and this has been a strain on a daily basis on staff who are already under stress.  

Teachers are resilient and positive-thinking in general. However, it's hard to measure the stress that we're being put under, simply by turning up and doing our jobs.

When the second lockdown arrived, with hardly any notice, it felt like it might be the straw that broke the camel's back. Suddenly, all our staff had a month's less time to do all the things that matter at this time of year - including, of course, doing the Christmas shopping.

That's when we decided to offer all of our teachers a duvet day - we've called it a "gift day" - to take this half-term, before the Christmas holidays. 

Protecting teacher wellbeing

We want them to have a day off, not during the holidays, when everyone is off and everywhere is busy, but a day midweek, when there is peace and quiet. A day to organise households and make family plans: to do the shopping, take some exercise or finally finish that book they haven't had the energy to read recently.

Our staff have seized on the idea, and made a range of plans. At last, they have something - something small, admittedly, but something nonetheless - to look forward to.

Some of our teachers have planned small adventures, such as picnics outdoors in the cold with a friend. Others have decided to devote the time to their own personal projects, like taking up a new hobby. With gyms closed, running, walking and open-water swimming have all seen a growth in interest. Some of the teachers at our school have completed the 3,000 sit-up challenge: 100 sit-ups a day for charity. Other staff are just using the day to sit down and plan their family Christmas arrangements.

It really is a very little gesture, but it's made a huge difference to our staff. Despite everything this term has thrown at us, there is a good, positive atmosphere in our school. Even though this has been the most difficult time to be a teacher, our school has survived the stress and challenges of Covid-19.   

Some, of course, may say that teachers already receive a good amount of holiday throughout the year. But we'd hope they'd agree that teachers - who have been on the frontline throughout this pandemic - deserve to look after their own wellbeing for one single, solitary day during term time.

Teachers are a precious resource, but we are only human. If we're going to stay motivated in these difficult times, we need to know that we're valued. A small gesture can make all the difference.

Maire O'Regan is executive headteacher of Roxwell C of E Primary School, in Essex, part of the LIFE Education Trust

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