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Emerging From Lockdown: What the new world looks like

8 June 2020

The weekly lives of teachers started diverging a lot last week. Whilst secondary heads were desperately trying to work out how to bus their oldest students into school, primary heads started opening their doors to more pupils. It’s been fascinating to learn what is going on in these schools that have re-opened, so we make no apologies for this being a primary focused blog post!

1. Regions and inequalities in re-opening

By Thursday the majority of primaries in the East of England had welcomed back their youngest students. However, almost none of their primary colleagues in the North West had yet opened their doors.

We couldn’t help noticing that there were substantial differences in school re-opening patterns by % FSM. Taking Reception class as an example: 67% in fee-paying schools, 45% in affluent primaries and just 29% in schools serving disadvantaged communities had re-opened. Was this simply due to schools in the more affluent south re-opening? We wanted to find out more…

When we look at Reception classes re-opening WITHIN a region, there was some sign of a pattern, with the primaries serving the most affluent communities most likely to be open in the East of England, London, Midlands, North West and South East. This might be because they serve less urban communities where the risk of re-opening was deemed lower by heads, or perhaps they are more likely to have Tory councils encouraging them to re-open. Do tell us why you think this is happening.

2. Many students chose not to return

Of course, it isn’t enough to re-open a school, you also have to persuade the parents to return with their children. Again, your responses to this question contributes to a worrying picture of access to schooling. The majority of students have returned in fee-paying schools and the most affluent state schools. However, in schools serving the most disadvantaged communities that have re-opened, three-quarters of teachers said that only 1-in-3 (or fewer) have returned to school.

3. Old year, new year group

In the state sector where classes are typically 30, only half of students can stay with their old class teacher (unless the school has implemented rotas). Perhaps it is no surprise that Year 2 teachers are most frequently joining Year 1 or Reception, whilst Year 5 teachers are overwhelming joining Year 6. This leaves Year 3 and 4 teachers most likely to be found running the key worker bubbles.

4. Social distancing and hygiene

There are some health and safety measures that nearly all primaries have implemented – assigned seats and stationery on spaced tables, no reading books coming back and forth from homes. Almost no schools have elected for teachers to wear masks and gloves.

Other measures are being used by some but not others. These include switching to non-uniform (that can be more easily washed each day), no marking of student work, and maintaining the 2m rule for students in a bubble.

5. How big is a bubble?

To implement social distancing and reduce the risk of transmission across classes, schools have been asked to contain students within ‘bubbles’. And whilst DfE gave guidance on these, we can see that schools are choosing to implement very different sized bubbles.

Occasionally, your responses make us scratch our heads, and this is one such occasion. If your responses are an accurate picture of school practice, then bubbles will, on average, be slightly smaller in the state sector than in the private sector. This is, perhaps, the first time in history that state school children could get smaller class sizes than their contemporaries in the fee-paying sector. We will review choices on bubble size in a month’s time to see how this unfolds.

6. Getting fit

Every time you glance out the window you seem to spot someone running past. Are you one of the people who took up running to compensate for the inactivity of lockdown? Or perhaps you are the opposite, drinking and eating more than ever before to stave off the boredom of home life?

There are rarely significant gender differences between teachers, but here males are MORE likely to say they are much healthier as a result of lockdown.

7. Are you checking in on your headteacher?

And finally… Normally it is the job of management to check the workers are doing OK. And it still is. However, headteachers are continuing to have to make almost-impossible decisions about how to safely organise their schools. 75% of heads told us they were experiencing feelings of burnout last week.

If you are still working at home a lot, you may not be hearing from your head so much – 43% of non-SLT teachers said they’d had no contact at all on the day we asked. So, if you haven’t heard from your head for a while, perhaps it is time to check that they are doing OK.

Last week’s readings

PS. Want to tell your colleagues about Teacher Tapp? We’ve got all the resources you need here.