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Coronavirus UK: Schools will return to "challenging circumstances"

Schools in the UK have been shut since 20 March and two education experts have warned that their reopening will bring new challenges for teachers and pupils.

Dortmund (Germany), 23/04/2020.- The teacher Fiona Supanc gives a lesson via video conference in an empty classroom at the Privat High School Stadtkrone (PGS) in Dortmund, Germany, 23 April 2020. The school in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westp

The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, has warned of big changes needed before pupils can return to schools.

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday evening, Mr Barton said that schools have already accepted that they will not be able to continue as normal.

"We already knew that whether schools were going to go back after half term or whether they were finally going back in September, you wouldn’t be able to have all of your staff back so we already knew you’d have to have smaller year groups.”

"What does social distancing look like in the classroom?"

Mr Barton said that 1 June is the earliest date that it would be possible to begin re-opening any of the school system, but added that even that was ambitious.

Given the close proximity that children and staff are required to work in, the distancing measures that may be applicable to other industries seem impossible to enforce.

"The problem is, whether you’re in a primary school or a secondary school, what does social distancing look like in the classroom?

Trainee teachers badly affected by suspension of school calendar

Also affected by the abrupt suspension of the school calendar are the 30,000 trainee teachers who are largely yet to record the amount of classroom experience usually required to qualify.

Professor David Spendlove, Professor of Education at the University of Manchester, said that these teachers have been let down by an “absence of guidance and scarcity of authoritative voice” from governing bodies throughout the coronavirus outbreak.

Although September’s new teacher intake may be ‘paper ready’, many will be lacking recent or sustained classroom experience. These new teachers will join schools that will certainly be preoccupied with adapting to radically different and challenging circumstances.”

AS English spoke to one young teacher whose time in training has been cut short by the coronavirus outbreak and has been told that they will qualify as usual to start teaching next academic year.

“We are supposed to do 120 days of teaching to get QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) but that’s scrapped for this year. I’ve only done 85 days so far, so am missing seven weeks in schools.

“I’ll get qualified teacher status as long as I evidence what I’ve done so far to a good level and pass my last assignment, but it’s disappointing to have missed so much practical teaching."

No target date for re-opening of schools, says education secretary

Last weekend, Education Secretary Gavin Williams announced that there is currently no target date for when schools will re-open. His ‘five essential points’ to allow pupils and teachers to return include being confident that it would not risk a second peak of infections.


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