Sleaford headteacher teaching union is wrong to call for schools to shut down until new year

Nick Law, headteacher at Carre's Grammar School and the Robert Carre Academy Trrust. Photo: 7239SA-1 EMN-201117-152245001Nick Law, headteacher at Carre's Grammar School and the Robert Carre Academy Trrust. Photo: 7239SA-1 EMN-201117-152245001
Nick Law, headteacher at Carre's Grammar School and the Robert Carre Academy Trrust. Photo: 7239SA-1 EMN-201117-152245001
A Lincolnshire teaching union may have called for schools to close in the county until the new year to curb the coronavirus pandemic, but the leader of a Sleaford academy trust opposes the idea for the sake of students’ mental health and wellbeing.

Chris Thompson, president of the Lincolnshire branch of the National Education Union, said this morning (Tuesday) that teachers were starting to get overwhelmed by the pressure, with county now having 95 schools affected by coronavirus with seven temporarily closed.

Mr Thompson said: “They’re struggling with the work load, they’re struggling with the level of anxiety. Many teachers are feeling they worked solidly since March, the stresses and strains are beginning to show.”

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But Nick Law, head of the Robert Carre Trust, which runs Carre’s Grammar School and Kesteven and Sleaford High School, disagreed.

He said: “Staff and leaders at both schools in the Trust are working tirelessly to maintain provision and manage complexities as pressures arise due to the potential rise in COVID cases and managing the impact of track and trace.”

He insisted children are better attending school wherever they can, and where it is safe to do so, particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged children. “I am so proud of the staff and students in the Trust for maintaining such a high quality of education,” commented Mr Law.

The two schools have worked closely together to support students’ academic progress and their mental health and wellbeing.

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Mr Law said: “They have had to learn lots quite quickly about remote teaching or live online lesson delivery and this has demanded training and practice. However the absence of extra-curricular opportunities and planning means that teachers focus can be given to quality teaching.

“What is hard for them is juggling online and face to face lessons with classes sometimes made up of students in the classroom with some of their peers joining live from home. This takes skill and lots of preparation to make sure both sets of students get the best experience at the same time.”

He said that due to parental support and students’ self-motivation, “excellent progress” has been possible.

He welcomed the adjustments the exam boards have made to the exams this summer both in terms of putting back the exam period by three weeks and lessening the syllabus content.

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He said teachers feel confident that students will be prepared for the summer exams. He warned that further disruption, staff and student absence will be an obstacle, but Mr Law was confident they could overcome these.

Mr Law added: “What is causing difficulty for staff and school leaders alike is the void of detail from the government about the ‘back up plans’ in the event that summer exams are disrupted or that the assessments don’t provide a nationally fair playing field.

“Subject leaders need to know what assessments they are preparing students for and students are unnerved by media rumours and uncertainty from Ofqual in this regard.

“Aligned to this, student and staff absence through self-isolation is certainly of concern but has been mitigated to large extent by our early and conscientious adoption of live teaching so that students and staff at home were able to continue with lessons and delivery of the curriculum back in June. Because different students have had to self-isolate at different times and for different lengths of time it is hard to ensure all students have had access to the face to face learning that is best for them.”

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He feared for the longer term effects on students’ mental health and well-being that could be a legacy of this pandemic and felt it doubly important that schools stay open to help support parents manage this.

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