‘A double-edged sword’ - headteachers’ cautious welcome to schools staying open in lockdown

Teachers have cautiously welcomed the decision to keep schools open. Picture: Ian Burt

Teachers have cautiously welcomed the decision to keep schools open. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Teachers have welcomed the decision to keep schools open during the second national lockdown.

Binks Neate-Evans, headteacher of West Earlham Infant School

Binks Neate-Evans, headteacher of West Earlham Infant School - Credit: Archant

Binks Neate-Evans, executive principal at Bignold Primary and Nursery, Angel Road Junior and Angel Road Infant and Nursery schools in Norwich, said she felt the decision was right for the time being but said it would have to be reviewed as the situation progressed.

She said: “At the moment, I think it is the right thing, but we need to look at it week by week, because the closure of schools on top of this second lockdown would just put an incredible amount of pressure on families who are going to be very over stretched.”

Ms Neate-Evans said a return to remote learning would not be ideal, although she added teachers had worked “incredibly hard” last time leaving them prepared if a return was necessary.

She added: “What we know is that face to face teaching is the most effective way of ensuring that learning is good, there are also issues around making sure everybody has got access to digital devices in the home.

James Gosden is the headteacher at North Walsham High School. Picture: Supplied by North Walsham Hig

James Gosden is the headteacher at North Walsham High School. Picture: Supplied by North Walsham High School - Credit: North Walsham High School


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“We learnt a lot during the last lockdown and schools have identified where that is a real issue and it continues to be an issue, but we’re better placed to provide online learning if it comes to that.”

She said teaching during lockdown could be safer, but added: “It relies on everybody doing their bit and minimising any other contact, which is really important and making sure that we maintain the rigor around Covid-19 safe practice.

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“People can do things really well at the start of something because it’s novel, but it’s about maintaining that.

“It’s our responsibility as leaders to minimise social contact for our staff, because this will increase staff anxiety and it’s very understandable.

“We can’t be responsible for what people do outside of school, all we can do is give out messages from our school community for a coordinated response to help keep schools open and at the schools where I lead, the parents have been superb.

“If cases do increase, we’ll have no alternative than to close bubbles because if we get positive case then we’re obliged to minimise any further spread.

“What we’re really hoping for is some guidance from central government and I think access to testing needs to be really ramped up for school staff.”

READ MORE: Student exchange programme celebrates 50th anniversaryHer comments were echoed by North Walsham High School head James Gosden, who said he was “very happy” to stay open, but joined the call for more government guidance.

He said: “For the short term, we’ll continue with our plans as normal and wait for further guidance, it’s been a bit of a double edged sword, we’re very happy we’re able to continue with ‘business as normal’ but we need to wait for guidance.

“I do think it’s exactly the right thing to have them open because it’s really important we give children that consistency and normality.

“My worries are, one, how people are going to feel about coming in during lockdown and, secondly, I’m concerned they’ve made decisions without all the details.

“I am worried people will panic and be concerned. At the moment in Norfolk, the R rate is still as it has been recently so I’m more than happy to carry on as normal until we hear otherwise, but there’s going to be a late couple of nights come Wednesday when we finally hear this guidance.”

Mr Gosden said remote learning would not be ideal, but he did praise teachers for providing “wonderful” online learning during the last lockdown.

When asked if he felt working during lockdown would be safer, he said: “Not really, the same risks apply but I think the staff at North Walsham have been fabulous at saying ‘actually we’ve got a great responsibility to provide an education for these children’.

“There is an element of risk as everyone has in their job but I don’t think it will make it much safer because if you look at the increasing rates from September, it was when all schools went back and all universities went back.

“They should’ve taken the opportunity to have a circuit breaker lockdown for two weeks, but that opportunity is gone.”

READ MORE: How does north Norfolk feel about second lockdown?

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