LONDON – When students return to Southend Boys' High School next week, the cafeteria will only serve takeout and lunch will be eaten outside. Classes last two and a half hours to reduce the need to change classes. And new equipment was purchased to spray disinfectant into the sports locker rooms.
"On the whole, we're pretty much ready to roll," said Robin Bevan, the principal or school principal as he prepared to greet 1,300 young people in a building about 40 miles east of London that is before about a century without taking social distance into account.
But there is only so much that everyone can do.
"The question" Will schools be safe? " Is a bit of a crazy question because nothing in life is safe, "Bevan said." The real question is, 'How much have you reduced the risk?' "
is located in the UK a critical moment in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic as millions of students return to classrooms, many for the first time since March when the country was in lockdown.
School enrollment will be restricted for young people living in relegated to their studies, and the government hopes this will spur economic recovery by allowing parents to return to work in abandoned towns and city centers.
But the move also carries the risk of another Infections surge as young people and teachers mingle, overseeing the process is an existential policy test for embattled Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who is the sen summer was in charge of the chaotic allocation of test results.
"It's a very, very difficult situation where you're really trying to balance the needs of a younger generation with the health needs of society," said Becky Francis, executive director of the Education Endowment Foundation, one Research institute.
Few deny that children have to be back in school and that people from poor backgrounds with inadequate or no internet access have suffered the most and have widened the country's socio-economic divide. Policy makers are concerned about the psychological effects of lockdown on children and, in some cases, their increased exposure to domestic violence.
“The schools, the majority of parents and most of the children have great goodwill. I am very keen to come back, "Ms Francis said, adding that without a return there is a risk of" seeing a generation of children affected by the effects of Covid ".
Even during the restricted schools remained open to children of key workers and those who are considered at risk. But not too many parents took advantage of this and a government plan to get all of the younger students in England back before the summer break.
This time there is cautious optimism, which despite the nervousness of some parents Most children will participate as in Scotland, where schools reopened earlier this month.
But the relationship between government and teachers is strained. In June Prime Minister Boris Johnson attacked "left" unions, accusing them of obstructing return to the classroom.
The teacher leaders accuse the government of serial incompetence. Repeatedly, they say, they have pointed out practical concerns, pushed aside, and then proven correct.
Studies suggest that children are less susceptible to Covid-19 than adults. However, there is a greater risk for teachers and families of students who may inadvertently transmit the virus, especially people with existing medical conditions.
At Mr Bevan's school, the students sit with groups of students in front of them in "bubbles" held together and staggered start and end times for lessons. But this is not practical in schools for younger children or those with special needs. So the headmasters had to do their best.
"At a time when the government was in turmoil, the local school principals came up with a pragmatic solution in their community," said Bevan.
This is a message echoed by Jules White, the organizer of a campaign for more resources for schools, called WorthLess.
“The schools are well prepared, we know how to follow the instructions, but there are many factors. When you have 30 kids in a classroom the idea becomes that you can always be two meters apart – well, that's not going to happen, "said Mr. White, the principal of Tanbridge House School in West Sussex, in the south of England.
"You can mitigate the risk by facing the desks and having separate equipment," added White. “It is the job of teachers and school principals to make people feel safe.”
At his school, two cleaning staff work during the school day and not afterwards to improve hygiene around the clock. Hand sanitizer was purchased for £ 3,500, approximately $ 4,500, and drama, sports and other after-school activities were suspended.
But Covid-19, he added, is "a multi-headed monster," he said. "You hit one thing and another comes up."
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If anyone should know, it's Mr. Williamson, whose job is generally at stake after a series of missteps. So far, others have paid the price for the exam results fiasco.
Sally Collier, director of Ofqual, has announced her departure, and she was followed by the senior officer of the training department, Jonathan Slater. As for the prime minister, he blamed a "mutated algorithm" for the chaos more than Mr. Williamson.
The political reversals n are still coming, at the latest when the government said face coverings should be worn in school corridors in parts of the country where there is a high rate of Covid-19 infection.
Just one day earlier she had argued that this was unnecessary.
Otherwise, the school reopening guide has been generally well received, but the main question is how well prepared the government is when there is an increase in infections.
Problems have already arisen in Scotland. Where the schools gradually reopened on August 11 and a total of 27 cases involving mostly staff were linked to a school in the past week.
"Schools and colleges need to know what to do if an outbreak occurs with the virus occurring in individual schools or on a larger scale with national, regional or local spikes," the National Education Union said in a statement.
Ministers have promised to provide mobile test units to identify the scale, however, the government has made efforts to put in place an effective testing, tracking and tracing system.
There is also little trust between teachers and political leaders. Johnson's closest advisor, Dominic Cummings, once worked in the Education Department as an advisor to Michael Gove, then Secretary of State for Education and still a senior cabinet secretary.
In this office, Mr. Cummings waged war on the educational establishment he called "the blob". But without their cooperation, there is little chance the government can succeed.
Many teachers want the government to back off their ambitions, recognize the constraints, and act early to avoid repeating this year's exam crisis in 2021.
This could be achieved by reducing school inspections, avoiding unnecessary tests and planning ahead in the event that it proves impossible to hold all exams by the end of the school year in the next year.
“You I can't control some things,” added Mr. White, “but other factors that you can control and you can reduce the demands on schools whose capacity is limited. "