Back to school: London teachers concerned about Covid wave with new rules

Teachers say there is a ‘level of anxiety’ around going back to normal, particularly for the more vulnerable staff.

London teachers have raised concerns over another Covid wave due to the new relaxed social distancing measures at schools this coming term.

There will no longer be compulsory mask wearing, class bubbles and staggered starts.

The rules over close contacts being required to self-isolate have also been scrapped.

And while teachers welcome children being allowed to mix with their peers again, there are concerns about school life returning to normal.

“I have mixed feelings about this concept of going back to ‘normal’,” said Faye Morris, assistant headteacher at Beecholme Primary School in Mitcham.

“The kids haven’t had a normal year of school over the last two years.

“It feels sort of liberating as a teacher and a leader to feel like we can go back to normal and reintroduce things like assemblies and events and getting the parents and the community involved.

“However there is a level of anxiety around it, especially for some of the more vulnerable staff.”

Faye Morris assistant headteacher at Beecholme Primary School in Mitcham.

Ms Morris explained that teachers are worried about another Covid wave in winter, like last year.

“Even though they’ve been double vaccinated, there seems to be such a high number of cases,” she continued.

“There is that worry of going into another winter with no rules and restrictions in place in schools.”

The assistant head added that parents are also concerned about the reduction in social distancing.

“I think there will be some worries from the parents as well, especially parents that have vulnerable families,” she said.

“I’ve heard some stories from people that I know who teach in Scotland that have already gone back, and have had issues with bubbles and cases.”

While a number of restrictions have been axed, bi-weekly lateral flow testing is still encouraged amongst staff and students.

Guy Acres, a teacher at a school in Wimbledon.

“I think people are quite concerned about class bubbles relaxing and would prefer to stay in one station,” said Guy Acres, a teacher at Joseph Hood Primary School in Wimbledon.

“However in my school all staff are fully vaccinated and children are doing bi-weekly lateral flow tests so this gives people a bit more confidence and security.

“I think it’s important for teachers to keep reminding children we are in a global pandemic and reminding them to wash hands and stay safe.

“It will be great to return to things like school trips, swimming lessons and a whole school sports day.”

Although the Department of Education has issued guidelines for schools returning, leaders are allowed to adapt the rules to suit their schools and staff.

“I know schools have been given the trust to do what they want and what measures they still want to keep in place,” Ms Morris added.

“So you can still keep bubbles within schools and you can keep the hand washing in place.

“I think there’s a general excitement amongst pupils and teachers that normal school is resuming.

“But I think there’s something that’s hanging over us in terms of knowing that there are still a lot of cases and wondering what winter will bring.”