Some schools in Kent are already preparing for the prospect of a return to virtual lessons after the New Year, despite the government’s insistence that no closures are under consideration.
One of the county’s largest secondary schools has told senior staff to draw up contingency plans for remote learning when the holiday period ends.
An internal email shown to KentOnline tells principal teachers that in the absence of any decision by the government about more restrictions and further measures, they should draw up their own plans.
It says it would be ‘wise’ to prepare as there is the possibility the government will not give schools much notice, if any.
Teaching unions say that staff are increasingly being told to be available for meetings during holiday periods.
KentOnline has been told that at some primary schools staff have been told to have mobile phones switched on and ensure they have access to their work emails.
Lewis Doig, who represents the National Education Union (NEU) in north Kent, said there were signs that teachers were facing increasing pressures which meant they were working beyond their contracted time.
He said: “Fragrant breaches of directed time are almost becoming normalised in parts of Kent and it is disgraceful - I’m having to keep reminding younger teachers that head teachers should not be calling you and you shouldn’t be going to a second staff meeting for two hours on a on a Thursday or Friday night. There’s a lot of that creeping in.”
The NEU said record numbers were leaving the profession, many citing Covid as a factor.
Wholesale school closures would be unpopular with both staff and parents, with the new term a crucial period for those taking exams.
Covid has already accounted for a drop in attendance rates at schools, prompting fears that the learning loss gap between less-advantaged children and their peers may grow.