Listen to the teacher – we have a plan to keep the classes open and the safety of the students Rachael Warwick

Tit is not the beginning of a new year that any of us teachers in England have hoped for: the growing number of Omicron cases and the continuing uncertainty about how it will turn out have given us all a nervous start.

As the person in charge of the 350 staff working at the three schools in South Oxfordshire, I remain very interested in their health, safety and well-being. As the person responsible for 2,700 children and young people, I continue to give priority to their right to education. School leaders have spent the last 21 months of the pandemic balancing these two concerns.

The biggest risk for schools that remain fully open during this period is the absence of staff who have to isolate themselves due to the virus. Many schools opposed this at the end of the last semester, being forced to merge classes and use an increasing number of cover staff and teacher supplies (if found) to keep classes and grades open. I very much doubt that a sufficient number of retired teachers will return to the profession during this parliamentary term to create the number of additional staff that may be needed.

What more can be done to support schools and colleges? Actually, quite a lot. The government should provide ventilation units for free to all facilities that need them: 7,000 announced on Sunday will not be enough.

Schools and colleges should be reimbursed for the additional costs they spend on supplying teachers, as well as the additional costs associated with Covid, from already tight budgets.

Ofsted should automatically agree to requests to postpone inspections by this deadline, as school and university management are quite right to focus on crisis management.

Parents and families should ensure that their children and young people test at home twice a week, without failure – and we need large stocks of lateral flow tests, which we distribute to our families to enable them to do so.

The test scoreboards should be deleted again this summer: schools across the country have been affected by the pandemic at different times and will continue to do so. It is not fair or appropriate to pretend that we have worked on equal terms this year.

School and university leaders have shown excellent leadership during the pandemic and will continue to do so. We preferred to keep our schools open to our most vulnerable children and the children of key workers: our three schools were not closed at any time during the national blockades. We have moved from distance learning through mass testing to managing the process of mid-graded marks. We remain agile and responsive to a rapidly changing situation, communicating well and regularly with our staff, students and families, providing security and grounded optimism.

There is a lot of talk about the “lost generation” of children, victims of the Covid pandemic. I refuse to believe that any generation should or will be “lost”. Instead of exaggerating, perhaps those who have the power to make decisions could rush for those of us on the front lines who are trying to keep young people in school, maintain their right to education, protect their health and well-being, and open the door. into their future. There is certainly no more compelling call to arms, no more important investment in our future than this.

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