“ALL schools will stay open.” As a teacher in coronavirus-hit UK, these words caused widespread confusion and unease. What did the UK know that the rest of the world didn’t seem to be aware of? How did our science differ to the rest of the world?

As teachers, we dedicate our lives to the education and wellbeing of the younger generation. With that comes great responsibility and privilege. We often work through personal issues, illness and unease to ensure we do the best for our children.

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In recent weeks, as the virus has spread, we have employed the national guidelines regarding hand-washing and have supported, encouraged and soothed our young people as they worry and stress over what they hear on the streets, the news and online. As the virus spreads, the cracks are beginning to show.

The UK Government, along with the devolved governments, until today insisted that schools would remain open. While we respect the decisions made above us, the fear and confusion has been building as we have watched so many countries around the world go into lockdown, including the closure of schools. Furthermore, the anxiety experienced by staff for the health of the children, their own families and themselves is adding an increased strain and, such anxieties inevitably have an impact upon the education.

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Our children’s hands are raw and cracked from the increased washing of their young hands, the schools are running out of soap and paper towels, the cleaners employed are not adopting increased measures to ensure cleanliness during this difficult time and the lack of respect for the education profession has left many disheartened.

We repeatedly heard the message that schools were to remain open BUT people nationwide were encourage to work from home; can someone explain why work was a concern for the majority of the population but not for education staff? We value education, we have dedicated our lives to it, but who was placing value on our lives? Our schools are dirty, soap is running out and many teachers have been spending a fortune online (of their own money) to try and find soap themselves to continue to keep our younger generation safe.

Our lives matter too, our families lives matter too and, most of all, the lives of our young people matter too. While in theory the refusal to close schools made sense, the practical implications of the mental pressure, lack of resources (soap, cleaning etc) and physical risk were not being spoken about.

Our political leaders told the country that children were safer in school, yet hid the true picture; our schools are dirty, there are no additional measures enforced, the anxiety around the outbreak is severely affecting our young people.

There has been no deep cleaning (or much cleaning at all), no increased supply of soap or hand sanitiser and no consideration for those who attend their work in education premises every day regardless of their own fears and anxieties.

We are also following advice from local authorities to create home-learning packs and systems to support learners in the event of school closures. We are dutifully following these instructions while still teaching our lessons each day and supporting our children each day and facing our own anxieties. Is there extra time provided for the creation of such resources and systems? No. Once again, the practical implications of this situation are not considered. We want to do the very best we can but, ultimately, need additional support to do this effectively in the current climate.

To the leaders of our nation; wake up, listen and think about the practical implications and not just the figures on charts and graphs; the people of this nation are worth more than a figure or statistic. We are all important and we all matter equally.

A concerned teacher