Covid: Shropshire school head ‘can’t see light at end of tunnel’

Schools are still facing turbulent times and are yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel, a principal has said as figures show the education system faced its most disruptive week since March.

Burton Borough School principal Krissi Carter
Burton Borough School principal Krissi Carter

A quarter of a million children in England missed school last week because of Covid infections, self-isolation or school closures, making it the most disrupted week since schools fully reopened following the winter lockdown.

National figures from the Department for Education showed that one child in every 30 at state school was out of the classroom on June 17, including 9,000 pupils with confirmed Covid-19 cases, 16,000 with suspected cases and more than 7,000 whose schools had shut entirely because of Covid outbreaks.

The majority of absences came after contact with suspected or confirmed cases within schools, with 172,000 students self-isolating last week, compared with 40,000 the week before.

Meanwhile this week in Shropshire, Minsterley Primary School closed after an outbreak of Covid cases and a letter was sent to parents of pupils at Haberdashers' Abraham Darby in Telford asking year eight pupils to self-isolate following a positive case.

A small number of cases of the Indian Covid variant had also been confirmed at Burton Borough School, Newport, in May.

All families with children in the Newport area were asked to get tested while all positive cases went into self-isolation and extended contact tracing was carried out.

Principal at Burton Borough, Krissi Carter, said that period of time had been 'difficult' but there is still a lot of uncertainty for the future.

She said: "It's very disruptive. The teaching and learning online does the job when you need it but nothing can replace face-to-face teaching.

"You can look out for body language in person but some students are a bit shy on Teams. As a teacher it's difficult to see if they are understanding.

"I think everyone has Covid lockdown fatigue. We desperately are wanting things to go back to normal and how they were before the pandemic.

"Not knowing what will happen in September, there doesn't seem to be that light at the end of the tunnel."

She said it had also been a turbulent time for teachers who are moderating students' work.

The school has also kept Covid safety measures in place and Krissi says all up-to-date guidance is being followed.

"We don't see this going away by the autumn," she added.

"We don't want to pull all our Covid secure measures completely.

"People are getting tired and fed up and we are all desperately wanting to go back to normal but we don't see when that will happen yet."

She said staff who had taken up the offer of a Covid jab had been more confident in heading back to the classroom.

Krissi added: "In terms of children having the vaccine, some people do have reservations and that will depend on whether parents think it is a good idea for their child."

Karen Bradshaw, executive director of children’s services at Shropshire Council, said: "Although Covid cases in Shropshire remain among the lowest in the West Midlands and below the national average we have recently seen an increase in Covid cases in schools.

"This increase has been particularly evident during the last two weeks with cases occurring in primary and secondary schools.

"Since June 21, 22 schools have had positive cases or are awaiting PCR test results.

"Schools continue to operate bubbles; this minimises the amount of pupils and staff that are required to self-isolate.

"Schools also continue to have a range of protective measures in place such as increased hand washing and staggered starts.

"Staff in Shropshire’s public health team and officers in learning and skills continue to provide support to all schools and, in conjunction with the director of public health, are continually reviewing the advice and guidance offered."

Telford & Wrekin Council also said the safety of staff and children in its educational settings remains a "top priority".

A statement from the council said: "As we have done all throughout the pandemic, our council continues to be in close contact with schools, providing advice and guidance on enhancing safety measures and supporting them with any issues or outbreaks, should they occur.

"Arrangements at each school to protect against the transmission of coronavirus may be different. Schools are in touch with parents/carers directly with details and queries about the arrangements should be raised with the schools.

"As we see cases rising locally, we are asking all parents and carers to please not send their children to school if they are not feeling well and to book a PCR test even if they are experiencing mild symptoms.

"As a precaution, all secondary school children should get tested using rapid testing twice a week - even if they have no symptoms."

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