Parents Angry at Change in Covid Government Messages, School Heads Say | Schools

Parents are angry and confused by changing government messages about how schools are handling Covid outbreaks among students, according to school principal, who says ‘exhausted’ staff unlikely to take a break during the summer.

Paul Whiteman, the secretary general of the National Association of Head Teachers, said comments from MPs and special advisers meant teachers were blamed for the huge increase in the number of students in England facing self-isolation, while ministers thought the isolation rules were scrapped.

“The debate is creating confusion and friction at the school gates – parents expect these changes to make things easier for them, and their patience is running out which the government has not followed,” he said. Whiteman said.

“Parents cannot understand why bubbles burst after positive tests and why children are sent home to self-isolate. And our members are blamed for it, when all they can do is follow the guidelines and rules in place, not anticipate what lies ahead. “

Whiteman said the sharp rise in Covid outbreaks at school – after official figures showed 330,000 students in England were isolating themselves at home last week – was compounding the heavy workload for principals , which is expected to continue in August.

Principals will have to oversee the testing and research of infected students one week after the end of the term, while those in high schools will have to administer the A-levels and GCSEs assessed by teachers next month. This includes the grade appeal process, which will need to be done urgently for students applying for college or sixth grade places.

Ahead of the new school year in September, school leaders may need to prepare for further disruption among the last unvaccinated age groups. But despite hints dropped by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, the government has yet to announce plans for September.

“We’re two weeks away from the end of the term in most schools – so if we need to make arrangements, for example, for on-site testing, we need to do it now,” Whiteman said. “If we are to continue to live with bubbles, we have to be able to organize these bubbles and have the right times. If there are also necessary tests before the return of the children, then we will have to organize a staggered start in secondary school.

“So the pressure on the schools is not really easing and the government is not doing anything in the last two weeks of the mandate to help. In September, we will still have a workforce that has been under pressure even during the summer.

Whiteman’s views were echoed by Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who wrote in the TES that the government had “chaired a week of unnecessary confusion and sniping,” adding that it marked “another sordid low point in the confidence the education sector now has in government.”

Whiteman, Barton and the National Education Union have written to Williamson protesting the lack of advice for the next school year. After accusing the government of treating principals “with what frankly begins to sound like contempt,” the letter states: “We do not accept that schools and colleges are supposed, on an indefinite basis, to continue. to undertake public health activities. homework, to the detriment of the health and well-being of our members, and their ability to focus on providing the high quality education that children and youth desperately need.

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