Delay full school opening
The Government did not allow for an extended half term in October, did not include schools in the November lockdown, did not allow schools to switch to remote learning in the last week of term in December and now seem set on insisting schools open as stated in January. Schools have worked incredibly hard to keep up to date with every new piece of Government guidance and make schools as safe as possible, but this only goes so far. Until the vaccine is widespread the Government can either keep schools fully open all the time or get the R rate down but won’t be able to do both.
Provide capacity for Secondary schools to conduct testing
Allowing Schools to switch to remote learning will help enable schools to prepare the mammoth task of testing staff and pupils each week. This is a VOLUNTARY exercise from schools, so if the Government want take up they need to talk and be coercive. There are still so many unanswered questions in terms of how will this be staffed? Physical capacity on school sites, costs and funding involved, the training involved, the logistics of the tests getting to and from schools, consent forms – all this takes time and a delay to on site schooling will help sort these issues.
Ensure teachers are vaccinated as soon as possible
Whilst the virus is prevalent and a vaccine not fully rolled out, some classes/year groups and even whole school sites will have to occasionally physically close their doors. The testing will help identify where cases are but may speed up this. But schools only physically shut their doors if staff are unavailable to work and this will be the case until school staff are vaccinated. Ensuring this happens as soon as possible will help keep schools open.
Make a realistic decision on Summer examinations
It seems to me the Government are dragging their feet on any decision on schools opening because they know what this means for next Summers exams. This decision could have been made months ago as it was in other UK nations. As it is, a small delay and saying some content will not be included (but us teachers still don’t know what yet) is all we have. This is an unrealistic position and time is now incredibly thin for them to decide and for schools to make the appropriate plans for whatever is decided.