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“Shut schools now to end ridiculous situation in education”

“Shut schools now to end ridiculous situation in education”

Friday 04 December 2020

“Shut schools now to end ridiculous situation in education”


A teacher and union representative has called for schools to close as soon as possible to end what he describes as an uncertain, inefficient and exhausting situation.

National Education Union spokesman Brendan Carolan said that teachers were finding the ‘hybrid system’ of teaching - with some children in the classroom and others being taught virtually at home - stressful and difficult.

That was on top of the natural worry that teachers may contract the virus in school, or become a contact and have to isolate themselves, he said.

In the past week alone, staff and/or students across seven schools - both primary and secondary - have tested positive for the virus, leading hundreds to be sent home and into isolation while the contact tracing process takes place.

Mr Carolan urged the Government to bring the end of term forward by at least a week to end the “totally untenable situation” in education.

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Pictured: “Teachers are being put under undue strain and are being stretched beyond belief," the NEU spokesman said.

“Teachers are being put under undue strain and are being stretched beyond belief,” he said. “They’ve been thrown in at the deep end to deal with this ridiculous situation, yet are working longer hours under-resourced and unsupported.

“The IT systems in many schools creak if there are too many people on it and running hybrid lessons is difficult and inefficient. 

“Of course, the problems that the Government is facing could all have been predicted. I am a social scientist and psychology teacher, and the growth in cases we’ve seen recently is purely down to predictable human behaviour. All we have done is be ourselves.

“They could have easily seen this coming and should have locked down earlier to avoid this situation just before Christmas. Now the national media are picking up on this, which is making Jersey a laughing stock internationally.

“Many teachers don’t have family here but they now face not being able to see their loved ones at Christmas, and possibly having to isolate once term ends. We need to close the schools now - and I think many headteachers would probably agree.”

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Pictured: Mr Carolan wants schools to close a week early.

One teacher, who spoke anonymously to Express, offered more insight into the current situation in the classroom.

“Some teachers are really concerned, but what is particularly tough is having half the students in class and half of them at home,” she said.

“Teaching someone in person requires a completely different set of skills to teaching virtually, so taking a hybrid lesson is like doing two jobs at the same time.

“Teachers are dealing with it in different ways but one way is to dial into Google Meet and leave the computer to the side of the classroom and let those at home listen in. You can also stand it in front of you with the camera on but the danger there is that you’re focusing on the students at home and not the class in front of you.

“Another challenge is that you have no idea who else might be listening in at home. There could be a younger child in the room when you’re talking about issues like mental and sexual health. Parents can also listen in, which alters the teacher-pupil relationship whether you like it or not."

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Pictured: One teacher compared teaching "hybrid lessons" - with some students isolating and others attending class in person - as effectively "doing two jobs at the same time."

She continued: “The measures we‘ve had to take add to the difficulties. Visors are difficult to wear and there is plenty of evidence out there to challenge their efficacy. But on a practical level, they can give you a headache and when you talk, your voice just bounces back at you. Teaching is all about effective communication and visors hamper that. There are visors that have holes to help your voice carry but they’re even more pointless than the full ones.

“Another concern is that students have had a wide variety of experiences during the pandemic, especially when it comes to learning from home. 

“The ones whose learning was pretty much uninterrupted will be fine - especially as we now know that students taking exams next year will get more generous grading, advance notice of exam topics and additional papers to revise with. 

“But those who, for whatever reason, didn’t have a busy timetable during lockdown may be at a disadvantage, which could widen any disparities in learning and opportunity even more. That is the long-term concern in all of this.

“As tough as it is, though, I do think we just need to hold our nerve, knuckle down and get over the line this term.”

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Pictured: One teacher explained how the use of visors can cause discomfort and hamper communication.

Sam Cooper, Head at D’Auvergne Primary School and president of the local branch of the National Association of Headteachers, said: “We are in consistent dialogue with the Education and Public Health departments and the matter of finishing this term early will form part of those discussions.

”At the moment, we are not in a position to say anything concrete but keeping the schools open and safeguarding children are our absolute priorities.”

One islander has since set up a petition calling for term to end a week earlier than scheduled.

Breaking up a week earlier from school would give us a 2-week time frame to isolate so we can make sure we keep our families from catching covid-19 on Christmas Day. It would make sense for us to be able to do online lessons if this would affect school time," Emily Condon wrote.

"This would give us the normal Christmas all of us are wanting, by also keeping our families, especially those that are vulnerable to the virus - such as the elderly - safe."


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