Why schools need to stay open if second lockdown is confirmed - but with measures to reassure and protect staff and pupils

Head teacher of Chantry Academy Craig D'Cunha Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Head teacher of Chantry Academy Craig D'Cunha Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Schools will have to work to ease concerns of teachers if they remain open as the rest of England goes into lockdown, a Suffolk headteacher has said.

Geoff Barton former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Geoff Barton former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a second coronavirus lockdown on Monday however it is understood that schools will this time remain open.

Essential retail will also remain open as it did during the first wave.

Executive headteacher of Chantry Academy Craig D’Cunha has praised the decision to keep schools open but said that work will need to be done to calm the nerves of some teachers.

He said that the decision has prevented extending the disruption that pupils have already experienced at the hands of the pandemic.

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“I think the damage which could be done by a lockdown to educational progress would have been a disaster, so I think it is a positive decision,” he said.

“What we need to make sure is that there are measures at schools and there is clear contact tracing in place to make sure that we can get students into school safely.

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“Whilst there is minimal evidence that schools actually spread the virus there is a lockdown for a reason, because of the number of cases and what we need to make sure is that isn’t exacerbated by the contact points within schools.

“The last thing we want to be doing is seeing areas of disadvantaged students not getting what they need in terms of schooling and cause greater disruption.”

The Ipswich head said that he realised some teachers would be nervous about working within school as the coronavirus continues into a second wave.

Figures show that Covid-19 cases are continuing to rise in Suffolk and across England.

However Mr D’Cunha said that schools will be working to ensure their safety and will have planned for staff shortages.

Chantry Academy already has a working plans incase up to 65% of teachers are absent.

Mr D’Cunha said: “There will be some concerns from teachers and staff members about staying open and that’s something that school will have to manage and mitigate.

“At our school we have a number of measures in place and each of those different layers will add some level of security.

“But nothing is 100% secure.

“And when situations present themselves we will have to look at how we deal with them.”

Meanwhile Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that if restrictions do need to come in for schools, it is not an “all or nothing situation” and that they may well move to a rota based system.

The former headteacher at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds said: “It is right that keeping schools open should be the priority in any lockdown, whether that is local or national.

“Children only get one chance at education, and we have to do everything possible to provide continuity of learning.

“Schools also play a vital role in providing support for children with special educational needs and safeguarding the welfare of vulnerable children.

“While scaling back the opening of schools is the last resort, we are conscious that rising Covid infection rates may mean that some restrictions may become necessary at some point. This is not an all-or-nothing situation.

“The most likely scenario if this was to happen is that secondary schools would move to a rota system, while primary schools would remain fully open.”

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