CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

‘Nobody backed off’: Teachers come into work to keep key workers working

'We were preparing for SATs and Ofsted but this really puts things into perspective'

26 March, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

TEACHERS and unions say staff have been “inspirational” amid the massive school system upheaval this week.

Schools shut their gates to pupils last Friday except to vulnerable children and those of key workers including teachers, supermarket staff, local government workers and transport staff.

This week there were 319 pupils in primary schools, 44 in secondary, 18 in special schools and 4 children attending nursery across the borough. Schools have been drawing up a rota system for teachers to operate by.

Gerald Clark, from Camden National Education Union, said: “Teachers come under the key worker bracket and I think it is good that teachers are being recognised for what they do. I think our schools will increasingly be seen as community hubs. That is what they are – they are central to the community they are in, they are central to the families in the area and they are essential for resources, especially to those who are most in need.”

Work has been set up for the majority of students to do at home and teachers are able to give feedback online.

Sam Drake, headteacher at Beckford Primary in West Hampstead which has had up to 16 children at school this week, said: “I think the NHS are really at the frontline but we are one step behind them.

“The contribution we have made keeping it all going, allowing the parents to work and making sure they can get on is really crucial and the staff are really up for it. It is inspirational to see how teachers have stepped up to this challenge with enthusiasm and the willingness to help. I haven’t had anyone in my school who has backed off and said ‘I can’t do it’ unless there is a really valid reason.”

Mr Drake, who is in his first year as headteacher, said: “It has been a very interesting year and I hope this is not what it is going to be like every year. We were preparing for SATs and Ofsted but this really puts things into perspective.”

Pupils at Beckford are avoiding contact sports during break times to encourage social distancing and instead are playing badminton and tennis.

But while schools are open for those who need them, the teaching union is making calls for virus testing for all school staff.

“We are all concerned that if we step outside our home we are putting not only ourselves at risk but spreading the virus to other people if we unwittingly have it,” said Mr Clark.
“That is a concern for all and for all teachers who are going into school. But the reason we are doing it is because it needs to be done to look after children of key workers.”

Free school meals are being distributed to families and an early help team are offering a check-in service to ensure families have enough food and medicine if they need it.

Education chief Councillor Angela Mason said: “I would like to thank all our schools and staff who have been working exceptionally hard in difficult circumstances and continue to do so for children and young people of critical workers and vulnerable children.”

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