“It was terrible”: teachers in English high schools the first week back | High schools

IIn England, after a Christmas holiday full of uncertainty about further restrictions, an increase in Omicron Covid cases and disrupted Christmas plans due to self-isolating family members, they returned to school for a new semester in early January.

Just days before the teachers returned to school, a new board from the Ministry of Education (DfE) emerged, according to which all high school students should wear veils in the classroom in an effort to stop the rise in Omicron cases.

Three teachers in England talk about their first week of the semester and their worries for the coming weeks.

“I don’t think I’ve known so badly since I started teaching almost 20 years ago.”

“It was terrible,” said Julia *, who teaches high school in London. “Less than half of our students showed up for a lateral flow test before the start of the semester, and several of our parents did not give permission for their children to be tested.”

Julia said she felt worried because students were hesitant to wear veils and many of their staff were ill. “We’re already talking about having to send students home because we don’t have enough coverage,” said the 50-year-old, who has been in the profession for almost 20 years. “I’m completely stabbed and I’ve had Covid twice – catching him again is inevitable at this point.”

She said her school had a high number of disadvantaged children and the situation with Covid had worsened after years with little or no funding. “We don’t have enough toilets, so we use portals, and sometimes when it rains too much in my class, it floods me. At the end of the day, it is the children who lose.

“I think this government is an absolute hit and schools are hanging dry. Announcements are left at the last minute, when it would be a great help to thinking on a larger scale. At the end of the day, learning is good when you can plan effectively. I don’t think I’ve known that bad in schools since I started teaching. “

“We feel paralyzed”

Tom, 40, a deputy principal in Essex who leads the response to Covid at his high school, said staff and student absences were the highest since the pandemic.

“Every day we admit a different grade group to the school and perform on-site testing. But as we wait for the grades to come, we find that the students have positive tests, “he said. “So I spent most of my time informing employees about positive students, providing online tuition, and informing families when their child would return. We have so many that we had to put them in a centralized table. “

The school is well prepared for distance learning, Tom said, but he is bothered by staff shortages. “In mid-December, we started getting hit quite badly. At the beginning of the holiday, me and 20% of my colleagues had a positive test. It was my second positive result during the pandemic. It was obviously disarming for those of us who couldn’t see our families over Christmas. “

Within this period, the school introduced the mandatory wearing of veils in common areas according to government regulations. However, Tom is frustrated that the rule is unenforceable. “DfE said no child should be denied an education if they refuse to wear a mask. The vast majority of our students are really good at it, but we feel a little paralyzed. DfE does not seem to be able to decide. “

‘I’m not sure how much longer I can continue’

For Amanda * in Birmingham, the situation with Covid at her school is better than they expected. “Compared to other periods of the pandemic, we did not have many absences,” said the high school teacher. “The absence of staff is very low and our children in masks were incredibly accommodating.”

Its main concern is the lack of ventilation and the threat of control by Ofsted. “I have a CO2 monitor in my class, but no real instructions on how to use it. The values ​​seem normal, but if they increase, what should I do? My windows are already open.

“Workload is a huge problem right now. We try to help students catch up and prepare them for exams and teacher-graded grades, while the threat of Ofsted hangs over us. For many of us, this is a fear and we feel that DfE has forgotten that teachers are not immune to Covid’s pressures, let alone preparing for an inspection. “

With the added pay freeze since 2021, Amanda and her colleagues are feeling a pinch of continuing pressure. “Teaching used to be a well-paid job with a good pension, but with historically high inflation and energy bills rising, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to continue.”

* Some names have been changed.

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