Teachers feel the strain as UK refuses to close schools

Teachers are feeling the strain caused by the government’s decision not close schools in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Many countries, including France, Ireland and Spain, have shut all schools in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus, but the UK has not advised any education institutions to close.

The National Education Union wrote a public letter to Boris Johnson asking him to clarify his reasoning.

“Every day we are getting increasing numbers of questions from teachers and support staff asking why the Westminster Government isn’t following the pattern of other countries in calling for periods of school closure. Those questions are increasingly asking why schools aren’t closing if mass gatherings are to be suspended,” said Dr Mary Bousted Kevin Courtney, secretary of the union.

Despite the decision not to close schools, many are anticipating closures and are preparing for pupils to learn from home.

Harriet, a teacher training on placement in a Sheffield primary, said her school are setting up resources online but it will up to parents to supervise with teachers unable to mark the work.

She described the mood on Monday morning as “chaotic”.

“One of the teachers tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend so all the senior leadership team are self-isolating. The school is essentially being run by teaching assistants and university students. I’m currently teaching and assessing maths and phonics but I really don’t how to do it,” she said.

Vic, working in a South London secondary school, complained that many teachers were confused by the ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality.

“There is anxiety amongst pupils now as reality hits them. They will get ill sooner rather than later.”

Vic, teacher in South London

“I could write a thesis on this! Most of it would contradict the government and school policy. For example, they haven’t cancelled next weeks Year 11 parent’s evening. By next Monday the statistics will be through the roof. Why not do the sensible thing now?” he said.

Vic also stated that there was concern that teaching staff weren’t being considered in plans, particularly those at higher risk due to age or health conditions.

He urged schools to follow the lead of universities by switching to remote teaching.

On Sunday Sheffield Hallam University announced that face-to-face contact would be replaced by online teaching including streaming real-time and pre-recorded lectures and one-to-one support by phone.