I’m so excited to teach in a classroom again, but school reopening must be staggered | #teacher | #children | #kids


Monday 8 March loomed over teachers for the entirety of half term last week as a possible date for when schools will reopen. Now the Prime Minister has confirmed it, the thought of being back in a few weeks is liberating yet completely anxiety-inducing. 

I am not going to lie: I can’t wait to get back into the classroom. For one, I can’t wait to get off this office chair and get my step count above 1,000 for the first time in months.

Secondly, I look forward to being able to see whether my pupils are listening to me witter on about Shakespeare rather than speak to a screen in the mere hope that one of my pupils might respond to a question. Several times a day I am met with a very blank screen, no ‘hand up’ emojis and a very silent response. I want to be able to be able to help the struggling student in the classroom who usually I can see from their ‘head down’ posture that they need some support and encouragement, but from my kitchen table, I can’t see that, nor can I help. 

Pupils need to be back in school. Academic development aside, the mental health and general wellbeing of our pupils is a real cause for concern. Social interaction is key for children’s emotional and social development and I can see my pupils are really suffering.

Opening schools too quickly however, could lead to disaster, which is why I believe it should be staggered – a year group at a time. Too often in this pandemic we, as a country, have rushed to lift lockdown measures or have failed to implement them soon enough. We need to learn from this. Opening schools, without a staggered approach, runs the risk of further spreading of the virus and with that, further hospitalisation and further tragedy. The plan for everyone to be back on 8 March makes me worry.

Whilst transmission among our young pupils seems to be relatively low, it is not non-existent. And they can still be carriers. Despite the best efforts put in by staff, many schools are just not equipped to operate in a Covid-safe way. Also asking teenagers not to come within two metres of each other, let alone not touch each other, is quite laughable. They are teenagers and it is not in their DNA to socially distance. In addition, unlike NHS staff and other key workers, teaching staff carry out their job more often than not without PPE.  

I wait on tenterhooks for the news app on our phone to ping to see what my job will look like tomorrow.

Whilst the vaccination programme is being rolled out at high speed, the vast majority of our teachers will enter schools again without even their first vaccination. Having had Covid-19 myself, I know just how debilitating it can be. Despite being young and relatively fit and healthy, my health has suffered. Whilst I count myself extremely lucky, it took much longer to get over the initial symptoms I encountered and months later I am still suffering from long Covid symptoms.

I have genuine concern for my colleagues and their families. When you train to be a teacher, you always joked about going into the classroom for the first time as “going into the bear pit” and never has that metaphor been more true. We are walking targets and potential carriers of the disease and more thought needs to go into ways to support our schools and teachers. 

I care deeply about the education and wellbeing of my students – it is why I trained in this profession in the first place. I want to make a difference to the lives of young people, I truly do, but this year has been the toughest of my career.

We have had to change the way we do our jobs at the drop of a hat and continue to make quite drastic changes on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. I wait on tenterhooks for the news app on our phone to ping to see what my job will look like tomorrow – and indeed on Monday 8 March.

The writer is a secondary school teacher in Cheshire



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