My school's coronavirus response was so bad I quit

A teacher in Sweden says the response to the pandemic there has been so poor they felt compelled to leave and head back to the UK

Anonymous

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I handed in my notice last week.

I did so because of my school’s cavalier and uncaring approach to their staff and students’ health with regard to how they are managing the coronavirus pandemic.

For example, two weeks ago there was a case of Covid-19 among the staff in my school, but the only people who were told about it were those who had had "definite" contact with her within the previous 24 hours of her displaying symptoms.

This made no sense for two reasons: firstly she could have been contagious and asymptomatic. Secondly, there was absolutely no way for management to know exactly who she had been in close contact with during the previous 24 hours.

They had no way of knowing which staff had had lunch with each other, travelled in together, or had impromptu meetings during the day, or which staff had shared classrooms, or indeed entire classes of students.

The former because they wouldn’t know, and the latter because they didn’t ask.

Staff absences soar

Fast forward two weeks on and we now have 12/13 staff absent every day and at least 9 have been confirmed as having coronavirus, with more currently waiting on results.

These results are between five and seven days in arriving because of the sudden rapid increase in people needing tests, because there’s a Stockholm-wide outbreak of the virus.

Two teachers who are supposedly recovered are already back in school. In Sweden, currently, you are only required to stay home for seven days from the onset of the virus, and then two days symptom-free.

However, one teacher who contracted coronavirus quite seriously, and was subsequently off work for over two weeks, was being bullied into coming back to school because her "seven- day period was up".

I am pleased to say that she waited until she was no longer contagious to return to school, but she should never have had to deal with that while so seriously ill.

Going against good advice

You would think that finally, with the virus running rampant and unchecked through my school, that they would be, finally, taking some extra precautions. You would be wrong.

Even worse, they are actively removing those precautions that individuals are trying to put in place.

People are still being told not to wear masks and students are refused entry to classes (not mine) if they try to wear masks, although more staff are now simply ignoring these instructions.

Even hand sanitiser dispensers have become a battleground. Those that were ordered for my department to have in their classrooms were removed because "they discouraged handwashing" and "didn’t follow policy".

One of my department is a pregnant woman and the stress on her of having to fight to be allowed hand sanitiser in her classroom is taking a mental and physical toll. She was absent because she was rightly afraid of potential infection.

The final straw

In fact, this was the final straw for me and led me to the decision to hand my notice in – a decision I had been weighing up for some time.

The fact that a heavily pregnant woman had to fight so hard for a basic human right left me feeling sick to my stomach and enraged that there was nothing I could do to help her.

My only option was to vote with my feet.

I thought this might have some impact on the leadership team but I was perhaps unsurprisingly disappointed. There was no culpability and no accountability.

The only comment was that my resignation came as no surprise, which is certainly fair. However, even with a member of the middle-management team leaving explicitly because of the school’s handling of Covid, nothing has been done.

Not with a bang, but a whimper

This is not how I expected my time in Sweden to end, but I can no longer stay at a school that is so cavalier about their staff and students' health.

No government has handled this pandemic perfectly (except perhaps New Zealand), but at least you get the impression they are at trying.

That feeling is completely absent here.

The only feeling in my school is that they simply don’t care how many people get infected and how much they suffer, provided they’re back in school as soon as possible.

The hardest part has definitely been being the minority of one for months. At least on my return to the UK, I will be doing the best to mitigate the spread of this disease with the majority of people who care.

The author is a teacher at a school in Sweden

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