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Life after lockdown – teachers’ attitudes to schools reopening

With schools’ reopening plans either in place or being finalised, how do teachers intend to spend their time before returning – and which year group would they not mind being in a bubble with…?

  • Life after lockdown – teachers’ attitudes to schools reopening

‘Bubble’ is a strong candidate for 2020’s Word of the Year.

The term came into wider use during the partial school closures as a way for the government to explain behaviours that help infection control. Teachers were instructed to place year groups in separate ‘bubbles’ to help limit inter-year group interactions, which made us wonder – if you had to ‘bubble up’ with just one year group for this academic year, who would you choose?

Just over a third of teachers picked Y11 as their preferred choice, the clear winner. Many will no doubt be keen to help those classes who lost out on vital exam preparation in Y10. Plus, focused minds do tend to be slightly better behaved. (Though only slightly…)

Sadly, the least-loved were Y8 and Y9. All across the world, this age group is consistently picked as the hardest to teach, in terms of motivation and behaviour. Is it this that puts you off, or simply that those critical junctures of Y7 and KS4 require more urgent attention?

A strange and surprising summer

Summer 2019. Every radio station is playing ‘Señorita’. Temperatures soar to record highs of nearly 40°C. Over half of all teachers make it abroad for the holidays.

In 2020, that latter figure has plummeted. When asked at the end of the summer term, just 20% said they’d be nipping overseas for the holidays. That’s in line with the general public, who have similarly expressed a collective preference for staycations and local seaside towns this year, given all the restrictions.

Stuck in the UK, how do teachers plan to occupy themselves? Believe it or not, 8% will be getting on with other paid work! That figure usually hovers around 10%, but a lack of demand for exam marking and broader pandemic protocols has resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of teachers intending to work through the summer.

Even before finishing for the summer, three quarters of teachers happily told us that they were looking forward to getting back into the classroom come September. You’ve got to respect that passion!

Sorting out lost learning

By the start of September, some students will have gone without any teaching for as long as 175 days. How have schools planned to compensate for that lost time this term?

Teachers at independent schools were far more likely than those in state schools to report having no catch-up plans. Given that their students are more likely to have benefited from virtual teaching over lockdown, this perhaps makes sense. However, private school teachers were also more likely to report setting their students work over the summer, indicating at least some concern about lingering learning gaps.

State schools shared a common preference for extra catch-up classes. Teachers working in the most deprived areas seem willing to go further than those in more affluent areas, with their schools more likely to opt for extending school days, and offering a reduced curriculum and fewer GCSE options.

They were also more likely to plan for opening over the summer. Given the magnitude of lost learning among their students, these radical changes may well prove to be a necessity.

Laura McInerney is an education journalist and co-founder of Teacher Tapp. Download the app for free via the App Store or Google Play. Follow her on Twitter at @miss_mcinerney.

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