Teachers the “forgotten souls” as schools reopen

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Some teachers are anxious about schools reopening / © cybrarian77 via Flickr

As schools reopened this week, some teachers have raised public and mental health concerns.

With much of the focus placed on the wellbeing of pupils, some teachers feel unecessary risks are being taken that could lead to another rise in Covid-19 infection rates.

The mental health of the pupils has been widely reported as a positive reason for re-opening, as the scientific experts show that the risk to younger children is lower compared to that of adults.

With the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Prof Russell Viner insisting “the overwhelming majority of children and young people have no symptoms or very mild illness only,” one Liverpool based Year 3 teacher says colleagues are feeling the strain.

“The focus is the kids aren’t at risk. It’s never about the teachers,” said the primary school teacher, who asked to remain anonymous.

“We’re just these forgotten souls. More needs to be done for the teachers’ mental health.

“I know loads of colleagues who have had Covid, we are at risk. Some are at breaking point with all the stress. What used to be a social profession has become such a lonely one.”

The teacher who, like many, has been in classrooms with key worker children throughout lockdown, raises a number of safety concerns: “We are having to share resources. There are huge safety concerns. It’s only a matter of time before we have to isolate for another two weeks.

“In the morning, parents and children are cramming through the gate and mingling in the schoolyard. The rate is bound to go up.”

Social distancing rules are in place in schools but, according to this Liverpool-based nursery teacher, are much harder to implement in younger children.

They said: “There’s been a problem in my class certainly, the kids are having problems with snatching. Being at home means that they’ve had the toys to themselves for months. I’ve had to speak to a few parents this week already about their children.”

Social distancing is also affecting delivery, as one secondary school teacher from Southport explained: “Having to stay two metres away from kids means they aren’t getting good enough standards of education. I have to break social distancing rules just to check over their work and see how they’re getting on.

“It was easier on zoom, but then you’re not really teaching, no one has their cameras on and you’re not even sure they’re listening. Sending the kids back is stupid. It’s not for educational reasons.”

Despite a frontline role during the pandemic, teachers have not been included in the UK’s priority vaccination programme and teaching unions are pushing for more safety measures to be put in place. A statement from the National Education Union (NEU) said: “Our focus now is on ensuring that the return to full opening happens as safely as possible.  Protective measures need to be strengthened.

“We are asking school leaders to make professional judgements on the pattern of return for pupils in their school and look at ways of staggering the return of year groups in the run up to Easter.”

Due to the sensitive nature of some of the comments made, the identity of all teachers have been protected in this article.

About Jack O'Brien