90% of teachers think social distancing in schools is 'unachievable'

31 August 2020, 12:09

By Kate Buck

Almost nine in 10 teachers don't think social distancing in schools will be possible when they reopen this week, a survey has revealed.

Of almost 6,000 school staff asked in England, 86 per cent said minimising contact between pupils will not be possible, while two thirds think guidance to avoid busy corridors, entrances and exits is unrealistic.

The wide-ranging survey by Tes also found than 28 per cent worry their school may not comply with the test and trace programme should there be a Covid-19 outbreak.

More than a third feel that the Government's approach to coronavirus safety in schools will not work and leaves them "at risk".

Around 4,500 teachers were among the nearly 6,000 staff who responded to the online survey, which took place at the end of last term.

When asked which measures from the Department for Education (DfE) guidance "will not be achievable" when schools reopen, some 89 per cent responded it would be staff maintaining distance from pupils and other staff.

Schools have been closed since March
Schools have been closed since March. Picture: PA

Just 35 per cent raised concerns about requiring those who are ill to stay at home - despite official guidance stating that suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases should self-isolate.

Meanwhile, some 25 per cent of staff said they had reservations about cooperating with the test and trace system, with 3% responding that they would not do it, Tes found.

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More than two thirds said they would be "completely" ready to do so and supply details of their contacts.

Nearly nine out of 10 lacked confidence in the ability of the test and trace policy to make school openings safe, with many worried about how their data would be used.

One teacher said: "I don't feel that my information would definitely be safe, and unless I had assurances that my information would be used for no other purpose, I don't know how willing I would be to cooperate."

Many pupils in England have not been to class since March, when schools were closed except to look after vulnerable children and those of keyworkers.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has insisted it is safe to go back to school
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has insisted it is safe to go back to school. Picture: PA

An open letter to parents from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Sunday insisted schools are safe, while reassuring parents that the health risk posed to children by Covid-19 is "extremely low".

"If a child is not in school, they stand to lose far more than just a few months of learning. It could well put a huge dent in their future life chances," he said.

Among those to urge parents to send their children back to classrooms is Boris Johnson, who warned that pupils face greater harm by continuing to stay at home.

The UK's chief medical officers issued a joint statement that said "very few, if any" children and teenagers would come to long-term harm from the virus solely by attending school.

A spokeswoman for DfE said: "We have always been clear in our guidance about the protective measures that schools should implement to reduce risks for staff and pupils as far as possible.

"Parents are becoming increasingly confident in their children returning to school, which is testament to the work of school staff across the country who are putting in place a range of protective measures to prepare to welcome back all pupils at the start of term."