A huge thank you to teachers, teaching assistants, and all school staff for how you have risen to the challenges of an extraordinary year.
2020 has been the most challenging year for as all as we have coped with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a parent, and a teacher who now works with schools in the cultural sector, I have watched with admiration at how teachers have risen to this challenge.
First, schools coped with staff shortages as colleagues became ill or had to isolate. Suddenly lock-down was upon us and teachers across the land had to get to grips with remote teaching and learning. Many parents tackling home learning gained a new-found appreciation of what teaching entails!
With incredible speed, teachers got to grips with setting work remotely and learning how to use MS Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet to work with colleagues and teach. Phrases like “virtual lesson”, “zoom bomb”, and “you’re still on mute” became part of everyday language.
Not that schools ever closed (no, Daily Fail, they really didn’t). Heads kept their schools open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Even as much of the nation’s workforce was furloughed, teachers not only kept going but upped their game. Many had to juggle teaching in school, setting work for pupils at home, looking after their own children, and keeping an eye out for the needs of elderly or vulnerable family members, friends, or neighbours.
Those teaching children in assessment years also had to provide, not only teacher assessed grades, but individual rankings of pupils in every subject. As it turned out, these grades would become the results for many pupils as the ‘Ofqual algorithm’ turned out not to be fit for purpose.
Following that gargantuan effort, the start of the new academic year required teachers to meet a whole new set of challenges. I’m pretty certain that there are few people in the DfE who would have the first clue how to organise 30 five year olds (or 15 year olds) to sanitise or wash their hands many times a day – but you did! Despite ever-changing guidance from the Secretary of State, often contradictory, confusing, and at short notice, schools dealt with it all, kept everyone safe, and enabled children to learn.
No sooner was there some semblance of normality than lockdown 2 was upon us. Again, schools kept going. Whatever Tier we were in, the schools were open, juggling ‘burst bubbles’ of children and staff isolating following positive tests, but still ensuring lessons went ahead and work kept being set.
Finally, at the end of the year, when teachers might have taken a moment from editing the KS1 virtual nativity play to look forward to a well-earned Christmas break, schools received an unwelcome present. No, not Nick Gibb “allowing” an Inset day before Christmas. Not Gavin Williamson’s threat of a Christmas court case for Greenwich council. No, the seasonal double whammy, delivered to school leaders in the now traditional manner of rumours on social media and a leak to the press, is that there will be a staggered start in January, so that schools can roll out their new responsibility for Covid testing!
So, as it seems that the thanks all teachers and school staff deserve for their unwaveringly fantastic work in 2020 is unlikely to come from either the press or Mr Williamson, let me say as a parent and, frankly awe-stuck colleague: