Workers respond to ‘back to school’

A mockery of everything we’ve done

by Rachel Lyon, teaching assistant and Unison member in Waltham Forest (personal capacity)

Schools opened on Monday 8 March, and we don’t know if we are inhaling or exhaling. Here we go again – bubbles, disinfectant, and social distancing in tight spaces.

I’ve worked through lockdown supporting key worker children and children with special educational needs. We have laughed and joked how the children have had their only experience of private education. Classes have been small, and children have had a lot of their teachers’ attention.

Staff have been diligently complying with lateral flow tests and mentally supporting one another, as we know each day we are at risk. We feel now we are going from the pond to the sea, with no in-between steps. As the gates have opened to all the children and classes have filled up, we can’t maintain social distancing.

We truly believed – with all that we know so far — that Boris Johnson would, under no circumstances, open schools without children’s return being staggered at least until the Easter break. We know the corona numbers will rise. It makes a mockery of the staff that have worked so very hard through lockdown and those having to shield.

A small number of staff have been vaccinated, while the rest of us know it will be months before we are. In my school year group, we have three adults off, and not nearly enough adults to contend with the amount of children coming in.

During lockdown, domestic violence has increased. And children have become more exposed to witnessing, and been victims of, emotional and mental abuse. We understand how crucial the next few weeks will be to highlight any vulnerable children, and get families the support they have lacked through lockdown.

Schools are the first port of call for safeguarding, and staff worry about so many children who are coming back to school who will need extra support with the change and experience they have had at home.

We expect to start the rest of term with media criticism, no financial support, no let up and with no priority for a vaccine. Happy Easter.

This article is on the national Socialist Party web site, along with further articles by Vicky Perrin from Calderdale, and Martin Powell-Davies of “Spined” (Socialist Party in Education).