Coronavirus: Teachers' concerns about school openings

Primary teachers warn there is 'no way' pupils will stay two metres apart, amid suggestions that schools could reopen soon

Tes Reporter

Primary pupils

Primary school staff facing the prospect of returning to full-time classroom work early have said they are worried that they will not be protected against Covid-19.

Speculation that schools will reopen soon has followed suggestions made by Public Health England director Paul Cosford and, according to the NEU teaching union, "unnamed government ministers".

The NEU has written to prime minister Boris Johnson asking for the government to urgently share its modelling, evidence and plans for reopening schools.


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Maddie Ross, a teacher at a primary school in Wolverhampton, said all teachers would be at risk if schools reopened too early, because of the difficulty of imposing social isolation rules on small children.

Ms Ross, from West Yorkshire, said: "It should be secondary school children that go back before primary, surely, because primary school children are going to be a lot more difficult to control, in terms of if we still need to keep two metres apart.

"There's no way you can get primary school children to do that, they'd be touching each other within the first few seconds of walking through the gate."

Bryony Baynes, headteacher at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester, agreed that social distancing is "pretty much impossible" with young children.

Ms Baynes, from Bredon in Worcestershire, said: "At the moment, staff are very willing to come in and have been brilliant so far.

"But if the government says that schools are to open while lockdown is still in place, that implies that the virus isn't under control, and that means I'm asking my staff to put themselves at even greater risk."

Mrs Baynes added her "biggest frustration" in dealing with the coronavirus crisis at her school has been the lack of information, support and personal protective equipment (PPE) from the government.

She said: "I feel really frustrated that the teachers seem to have been forgotten in all this.

"We haven't been offered tests. We haven't been offered a great deal of guidance or advice or support, and we're just expected to find our own way.

"As a head, that's giving me so much anxiety and stress – it's worse than having a visit from Ofsted."

Jackie Schneider, a part-time music teacher at a primary school in the London borough of Merton, said an early return to schools "could undo all the good work people have done by locking down".

Ms Schneider, who has taught at her school for 30 years, said: "I would be happy to go back if that's what the science says, but I would not be happy to be bounced back for the needs of industry.

"When parents wave their kids goodbye every morning and send their kids to me, I want to be able to look the parent in the eye and say, I have done everything I can to keep your child safe."

Ms Schneider, who stood as a Labour Party candidate for Wimbledon in the 2019 general election and represents the NEU at her school, also urged the government to work with the teaching union.

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