'Sitting ducks': Why teachers fear school reopenings

Three-quarters of school staff are 'frightened' or 'worried' by the ambition to reopen schools by Easter. Read why here

William Stewart

Coronavirus: Why teachers are worried about reopening schools by Easter

Gavin Williamson said on Thursday that he wanted schools to reopen to all pupils before Easter.

But now a Tes survey of teachers and other school staff has revealed that three-quarters of them are either "frightened" or "worried" by the education secretary's ambition.

Coronavirus: Teachers worried about schools reopening

Many of those who took part in the survey were outspoken about why they thought opening schools up this term was a bad idea. Here are some of their comments.


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  • "I’m afraid of taking the virus home to my family," said one secondary teacher.
  • "We would definitely have another spike," said another secondary teacher.
  • "I have a daughter who is vulnerable and both sets of parents are vulnerable. I feel the risk this puts my family at is too great," said a special school teacher.
  • "It would not be safe and would go against all scientific advice. People's lives are not expendable and we all deserve to be safe. I would be seeking union advice," said a secondary teacher.
  • "Teaching six lessons a day means I have 180 students through my door every day... I would also like to see Boris Johnson or Gavin Williamson or one of the top scientist advisers actually spend a whole typical day in a state secondary school when it is working at full capacity to see the risks we are actually facing. I am fed up hearing that 'schools are safe' when they do not know the reality of the situation," said another secondary teacher.
  • "It is unsafe. There is little hands, and no face or space," said a primary teacher.
  • "No social distancing possible in school. We would be sitting ducks, especially with the new variants," said a secondary teacher.
  • "I know the government do not care whether we live or die," said a primary teaching assistant.
  • "I feel frightened. I have had panic attacks for the first time in my life and don't sleep at least two nights a week," said a secondary teacher.
  • "It would be negligent of the government. It would, yet again, place headteachers in an impossible position. The government’s casual disregard for the concerns of school leaders and the ongoing stress and workload is shameful," said a primary headteacher.
  • "Impossible to social distance. I have had Covid, my learning support assistant has had Covid, we absolutely got it in school as we do not go anywhere else. At least two other teachers have had it. One then lost her mother. Our local rates are too high," said a primary teacher.
  • "The government will think the health of school workers is an acceptable trade-off to reopen the economy, but this will be short-sighted, as we have seen how the unfettered spread of the virus through younger cohorts ultimately impacts their parents. Instead of rushing back into full classrooms, we should be looking at real mitigations, including PPE, better ventilation, etc, and rota learning – with an emphasis on outdoor social/sports activities, both because they are safer and because they would do a good deal in terms of helping children and young people recover psychologically from the last year," said a secondary teacher.
  • "Terrifying. We are just cannon fodder," said a special school teacher.
  • "My school can replace me, but my family can't," said a primary deputy head.
  • "I’d not cope. I don’t believe it is safe. I knew it wasn’t safe Sep-Dec and went off sick the last three weeks with massive anxiety. Covid-positive staff and students every week," said a secondary teacher.
  • "I contracted Covid from school in Oct 2020. My only contacts since February have been school and a weekly shop. I saw my mother at a social distance once in August. The week I contracted Covid I had not even been to the supermarket. Teachers contract Covid from schools," said a secondary teacher.
  • "Our pupils do not know how to social distance and lots of staff are required to look after them, making social distancing for staff very difficult," said a special school administrator.
  • "We cannot trust families to honour isolation rules. We are not safe and pupils are not safe. Already I know of a case where a primary child was sent to school while the mother had Covid because the parent couldn't cope with the child at home, and I have had three pupils arrive in class while they should have been isolating. This will happen again if schools open," said a secondary teacher.
  • "Need to make schools safe first. No other organisations allow 30 people in a room with no social distancing, no ventilation, no masks and no screens. Then allow for group gatherings of 300 people in assemblies, then to mix at lunch and break. The government is setting different rules in schools to any other organisation," said a secondary teacher.
  • "I don’t feel safe now with the reduced number we have in school. Children are getting the virus and displaying only very mild symptoms but passing it on to staff, who are becoming ill from it. The government need to protect their teaching staff. There’s been very little thought for ours and our families' safety during this pandemic," said a special school teacher.
  • "Too many people in too small a space. It will be impossible to prevent or even slow transmission and it will simply be a repeat of the catastrophic autumn term," said a secondary teacher.
  • "School staff need to be vaccinated before pupils return," said a primary teacher.

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William Stewart

William Stewart

William Stewart is News editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @wstewarttes

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