Hundreds of heads will block children’s return to school as nearly 90 per cent of teachers warned social distancing will be impossible and many claim ‘extreme anxiety,’ over new term.
Under-threat Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has staked his future on the full return of schools, after overseeing the exams fiasco that unfairly graded thousands.
But the survey of nearly 6,000 school staff found that more than a third felt the Government’s approach to safety ‘won’t work’ and will leave them ‘at risk’.
In a separate survey, at least 700 head teachers said they would not be allowing all of their pupils back at once, instead opting to use the first weeks of the new school year as a transition period.
According to The Telegraph, around three per cent of those surveyed at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) plan to welcome pupils back in stages.
The NAHT said the number of schools postponing a full reopening only represented a ‘tiny percentage,’ of those surveyed.
Teachers are suffering from ‘severe anxiety’ ahead of the new term beginning tomorrow, with most staff still having safety concerns. Pictures, Manor High School in Leicestershire
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: ‘Please do not let the very public political difficulties and arguments cloud your confidence in schools.
‘With co-operation and understanding between home and school we can achieve the very best return possible despite the political noise.’
The NAHT figures come after 28 per cent of staff said they may not comply with the test and trace system if there is a coronavirus outbreak at their school, because they do not trust the Government with their data.
According to the poll by the Times Educational Supplement, 88 per cent of school staff in England said they lack confidence in the ability of the test and trace policy to make school openings safe.
But heads’ union leader Geoff Barton said that although there ‘will be lapses from time to time’, safety procedures ‘will improve’ as pupils and teachers get used to them.
The Department for Education has also been criticised for releasing important contingency plans for virus-hit schools late on Friday night.
But it said that under the new guidance no further measures needed to be introduced before the term starts.
Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said the guidelines were ‘long overdue’, while Paul Whiteman, boss of heads’ union the NAHT, said the timing was ‘reprehensible’.
‘It was obvious weeks ago that lockdown advice was necessary’, he said.
Under-threat Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (above) has staked his future on the full return of schools, after overseeing the exams fiasco that unfairly graded thousands
The Department for Education said the new guidance outlines how schools in virus-hit areas will operate on a four-tier system.
All schools remain open at tier one, while a tier two response will see secondary schools move to a rota system, which means pupils will spend two weeks on-site followed by two weeks at home.
Tiers three and four mean more stringent restrictions such as closures to all but pupils in vulnerable groups or children of key workers.
One respondent told the TES how hygiene measures put an ‘enormous responsibility on staff’.
‘Everyone is working extra hours and the constantly changing advice is extremely stressful’.
‘Our cleaning staff have expressed extreme anxiety at having the children’s and staff’s health in their hands.’
And a deputy head commented: ‘I have seen staff too close to pupils when helping them learn and some children are too close physically. A consistent safe distance is not achievable.’
One teacher said: ‘We have four classes using one set of toilets. Robust hand washing will be a huge issue.’
A teaching assistant added: ‘When staff have to move between classes having multiple start times will become tricky and staff will inevitably be late to lessons. This will lead to some children taking advantage and causing disruption.’
A poll found 88 per cent of staff said they lack confidence in the ability of the test and trace policy to make schools safe. Pictured, pupils return to Manor High School in Leicestershire
Friday’s guidance also detailed how, if an infection is confirmed, schools contact a health protection team, who confirm who was in close contact and ask them to quarantine for 14 days.
But adding to the confusion, the document was amended shortly after it was published, removing guidance that said entire ‘bubbles’ of pupils may need to self-isolate.
Mr Whiteman added: ‘Inevitably, there will be anxieties. These are unprecedented and unusual times. Despite all the safety measures that are being put in place, anxiety is entirely understandable.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Schools have had our Public Health England-endorsed guidance on full school reopening since the start of July, and teachers and school leaders and staff have been working hard to put these measures in place so all children can return for the autumn term. The latest updates provide additional information to support schools as they welcome all children back.’