I was so scared. At the beginning the social distancing guidelines were misunderstood in our setting and management suggested that if the school was closed we could all come in and hang displays and tidy cupboards. As some of the lowest status staff we usually do exactly what we are told. But I unexpectedly found my voice in front of everyone at a staff meeting. Perhaps this was a result of suddenly being recognised as a “key worker’. The words came tripping out before I could stop them; although I was willing to help with essential work I would not be taking a risk by doing any non essential work, and that I would be following the WHO guidelines which I believed trumped theirs. It didn’t even sound like me, I don’t usually feel able to speak up, but as the virus grows, so has my confidence. Management took on board what I said and have worked out systems to reduce the risk of our exposure, such as rotas with the same team working together every seven days.
Another problem at the beginning was checking if parents really were key workers who had no other parent to provide care. Now the school is much more careful and requires proof, which has brought our numbers down which in turn means we can stretch our rota so that we only work every 14 days and allows us to increase the hours of childcare on offer. However, there are still issues that could be worked out if providers worked together, for example we were providing care for three children because their mum was a T.A in another school. It is a childcare loop: in order to have one T.A in one school another school potentially exposes three children to the virus. However, I suspect the academy system means that the connections between local schools aren’t as strong as they used to be.
So unfortunately the way our school has tried to close the loop it is to say that we will provide childcare for our own staff members. One of our staff members has a 2 year old and a 3 year old. So in order to have her we have to look after another two (small) children. I feel that this is not fair especially as the children cannot give their consent to this possible exposure.
I feel like I can’t keep complaining but in my experience management are finding it hard to step away from the mantra that school is the best place for children. Unfortunately that no longer seems to be the case. Even our children that are vulnerable are at risk at school. I can see there are no easy answers. I just wish we and social services could do home visits. There are families who could really benefit from a friendly and supportive home visit.
Now we are taking turns to look after a child with brain injuries which usually makes his behaviour hard work for us all and especially for his fantastic adoptive parents. It is respite care and it feels like essential work so I am happy to do it. He is 9 so usually has to sit in a mainstream classroom. I took him down to the empty reception classroom and played all week with him and managed to get some great learning in. In the middle of all this upheaval it struck us all how much calmer he was and how positively he responded to the EYFS curriculum than to the mainstream programme school usually struggles to deliver. I will dig deep and find more confidence to speak up about this. Maybe the glimmer of hope in this horrible situation is that, for that one little boy, we have found what works.