Teachers and headteachers express their sense of reliefs after hearing the news of schools' shutdown.
Relief, that’s an exact expression for all headteachers in England. The government decided to close the school. School leaders and teaching unions pressed the government to the delayed reopening of schools after Christmas but their response was last minute and chaotic. Scientists played their part in the decision.
Covid, England shuts down schools to face the lockdown
Now, the concern is to avoid a repeat of the exams fiasco last summer and the quality of remote education which has been hampered by the digital divide among students. Many disadvantaged pupils have been asked to cope without significant technology despite government promises of a million laptops.
Children of key workers and pupils from vulnerable backgrounds will continue to attend but all other students will shift to remote and online learning from Tuesday.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said, “We are relieved the government has finally bowed to the inevitable and agreed to move schools and colleges to remote education in response to alarming Covid infection rates.”
He also added that “it was very frustrating that it issued legal threats to schools at the end of the last term to prevent them moving to remote education, and then made a series of chaotic announcements about the start of this term.
“Ministers have to stop boxing themselves into a corner by being so dogmatic about their plans even as those plans are unravelling. Well, everybody understands this is a fast-moving situation”.
Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the Commons education committee, called for renewed efforts to improve remote learning and for priority vaccinations for school workers.
Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams also announced that all schools and colleges would move to online learning until 18 January. She exposed, “We had initially given schools flexibility in the first two weeks of term to decide when to reopen based on local circumstances. But it is now clear that a national approach of online learning for the first fortnight of the term is the best way forward.”
In Northern Ireland, ministers were meeting to discuss their response to the growing crisis.
Meanwhile, many in the early years’ sector in England were enraged to find that they are to continue open while schools and colleges close. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said, “Many early years practitioners were already incredibly worried about continuing to work during this period.
“It is unacceptable that yet another government announcement has been made without reference to any scientific evidence explaining how those working in early years are expected to be able to keep themselves and their loved ones safe at a time when those in schools are being told that it is simply too dangerous to go to work.”