by Debbie Hayton
Wednesday, 10
February 2021
Reaction
17:20

Sorry Boris, school’s out for summer

We are all exhausted, staff and students alike
by Debbie Hayton
Calls from No.10 to extend the school year are not the answer. Credit: Getty

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a disaster for children. But calls to extend the school year are not the answer. Obviously, teacher unions will object if their members are instructed to work more days and longer hours in the summer without a pay deal to compensate. However, if their protests have scuppered those plans so quickly, the government needs a better strategy. Besides, children need a new approach now, not later.

I am a teacher and I see at first-hand the deleterious impact of lockdown learning — not only on education but on the mental health of young people. Isolated from teachers and friends, my pupils spend hours a day sat staring at a screen. They might not have developed the square eyes my grandparents warned me about 40 years ago, but they have been left mentally and emotionally exhausted, worried that they are falling behind and without the real-life support of their teachers.

It is almost as difficult from my end of the fibre-optic. Good lessons rely on presence, purpose and pace. Get those right, and teaching can be effective, efficient, and — apparently — effortless. Trying to do it through the blinkers of Zoom is difficult, draining and sometimes desperate as we try and replicate three-dimensions in two. We are all exhausted, staff and students alike. Half term cannot come soon enough for any of us.

The prospect of longer school days in July and August does not help anyone’s mental health. Indeed, after two academic years have been disrupted, we may need time and space to recoup. We will not manage that in probably 30-degree classrooms cramming knowledge into our pupils’ heads. Rather than talk about remedies in the summer, we need to get children back into school soon after half term so that we can make the best use of time that we do have in the calendar.

Teachers’ unions are often criticised for talking more about problems than solutions, but the NASUWT vaccinate2educate campaign is surely a way forward. What sense is there in vaccinating 75-year-old pensioners – who will catch nobody else’s germs if they self-isolate – ahead of 55-year-old teachers who should be in their class room?

Around a million people work in state-funded schools in England. Once the vaccine has been offered to every teacher — and we could all be vaccinated in four days at the rate the NHS is currently administering the jabs — we can and should get straight back into school and rectify the damage that has been done to children’s education.

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Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 year ago

Debbie, although your argument for vaccine priority makes sense I strongly suspect if teachers were higher up the jab order their unions will find other reasons not to go back to work or do additional teaching.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
1 year ago

I’m all for teachers refusing to go in the summer. Then they should be docked an amount of pay in keeping with the amount of time they had off during the year.
As to Debbie’s concern about 55 year old teachers: they have a higher chance of dying in a car crash on the way to school than they do of COVID. Get vaccinated. Don’t get vaccinated. Whatever. But go the hell to work if you want to get paid.

Derek M
Derek M
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Milburn

Based on pure statistics binmen and lorry drivers have a greater chance of death ‘with’ Covid 19 than teachers, but then they’re not middle class university graduates and so of little interest to the media who just see them as part of the amorphous working class who do the dirty work that is beneath them (even if they are ‘key workers’). Oh and the average age of teachers in the UK is in their thirties, they are at no particular risk; but then that’s the same for most of the working age population

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Somebody very close to me is a member of the NASUWT and she thinks the union is a joke. Unfortunately, union meetings do not offer proper ballot facilities and she has seen members of the staff room completely isolated for daring to disagree in a union meeting. I think, therefore, that all unions are jokes.

Mark H
Mark H
1 year ago

What sense is there in vaccinating 75-year-old pensioners ““ who will catch nobody else’s germs if they self-isolate ““ ahead of 55-year-old teachers who should be in their class room?

Simple: should the 75 year old catch COVID, they will most likely need a lot of care that places pressure on the NHS. and there is a much higher probability of long-term harm to the individual.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark H

Of course. But however many times you say this, people just ignore it. I have seen arguments that the NHS is not really struggling, that the hospitals are not really full. What can you do? It is like saying, ” I want to do what I want to do and I don’t care.” Childish.

Arthur Holty
Arthur Holty
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark H

Which is why Triage should be applied to ICU patients…Sorry over 65 then you must stay home. Written by a 65 year old boomer !

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
1 year ago
Reply to  Arthur Holty

A lot of 65 year olds still work – pensions aren’t paid until 66.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

“Obviously the teachers’ unions will refuse … without more pay.”

Of course they would refuse to be helpful – because they are unions. That is what unions do, isn’t it?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Would you work on your days off without extra pay? I know I wouldn’t

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Would you expect to be paid and not work? I know I wouldn’t.

jamessykes3011
jamessykes3011
1 year ago

They’re being paid now and not doing what they’re contractually obliged to , and they get paid for the holidays. Which other profession closes down its entire organisation for “training days”. The government should do what Ronald Reagan did to the air traffic controllers and sack the lot of them. The difference is he had courage and this government doesn’t.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

If I had 13 -16 weeks off a year and had not suffered any loss of pay throughout the pandemic I would do a week or two.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Most of us have little choice. Officially, we are paid for 371/2 hours but if you are in a role that matters, that carries responsibility it is a lot more

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

If I was a teacher who truly cared about my classes, then of course I would.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago

As a teacher myself, the worst aspects of online teaching isn’t so much the actual teaching, but the mandates coming from school leaders and government.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 year ago

Given the quality of much teaching, it might be better if there continued to be less of it….

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

in most places of work if you need to self isolate, statutory sick pay is the rule. i bet there would be no issue with teacher if the same harsh realities that applied to the rest of us also applied to them and it is about time they did. Also harsh reality is a marvellous antidote for woke

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
1 year ago

We need a Reagan solution for the teachers unions.

ruthengreg
ruthengreg
1 year ago

I was for working to catch in someway. Summer yes but with more Teachers rather than those who have been working. Vaccination is the only answer I have said.