This post has been written by Jan Fitzpatrick
I don’t know about you, but for me, life feels quite unpredictable at the moment. Last time we published our news blog, we’d had a few uncertain months culminating with the election of a new Conservative government. The Brexit withdrawal agreement has since been signed, and although we have now entered into a transition period, who knows what the outcome will be? Overshadowing all of this, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading worldwide and nobody can predict how the next few months will unfold.
As I write, there is a possibility that our government will follow the example of schools around the globe, and shut down schools in an attempt to contain and help prevent the spread of the virus. Only a few weeks ago, China, where the outbreak began, was the only country to take this drastic measure. However, the virus has spread so quickly that by last Wednesday (4th March) , 22 countries on three separate continents had announced school closures of varying degrees, leading the United Nations to warn that “the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled.” Students are now out of school in South Korea, Iran, Japan, France, Pakistan and elsewhere — some for only a few days, others for weeks on end. In India on Thursday (5th March), all public and private primary schools in New Delhi were closed, affecting more than two million children. In Italy, suffering one of the deadliest outbreaks outside China, officials have now extended school closures beyond the north, where the government has imposed a lockdown on several towns, to the entire nation.
Here in the UK, only a handful of schools have closed so far, primarily due to confirmed cases of the virus from pupils or staff returning from overseas trips. The Prime Minister played down the risks of widespread school shutdowns at a press conference to deliver the government’s coronavirus plan on Tuesday, saying: “We don’t think schools should be closing in principle. If possible, they should stay open but school authorities should follow the advice of Public Health England.” The government wants to be prepared to tackle potential teacher shortages in individual schools or areas. New legislation is being hastily prepared and is expected to permit the relaxing of constraints on class sizes and the sending of pupils and teachers to other schools if theirs is closed or demand is created by staff being off sick.
So where does this uncertainty leave us? I believe that as teachers, we have a responsibility to prepare for the worst without causing any undue alarm or panic amongst our colleagues and children. It goes without saying that we need to be encouraging basic hygiene precautions in our homes and classrooms and reassuring the children in our care of their safety. We also need to be hyperaware of any incidents of victimisation of BAME students and staff. Although there have been calls for SATs exams to be scrapped in the event of a widespread coronavirus outbreak in the UK, we are far from this position at present, so we need to be making preparations for our pupils to continue their learning away from school.
Here at Classroom Secrets, as well as creating and updating all our usual resources we are trying to find out from teachers how we can best help you prepare. We are uploading new resources daily onto our Classroom Secrets Kids site, so if you haven’t already done so, it might be a good idea to get your children registered now (it’s completely free to use) and encourage them to explore at home and in the classroom. Do get in touch with us by commenting on this blog or emailing us [email protected] and let us know how we can help.