04:55PM, Thursday 07 January 2021
The executive headteacher of two primary schools in Slough has criticised the Government over its lack of understanding during the COVID-19 crisis.
Marish Primary School, in Swabey Road, Langley, and Willow Primary School, in Fernside, Slough, were among the thousands of schools across the country told to fully re-open by the Government on Monday despite surging coronavirus cases.
A U-turn followed with the announcement of a third national lockdown later that evening.
But Gill Denham, executive headteacher of both primary schools in Slough, said staff have been ‘scared out of their wits’ by the rising cases in schools and said pupils and parents have been on edge since December.
“On Monday morning we had a father of some children crying at the school gates saying ‘I do not want to bring my children into school, I’m scared stiff but the Prime Minister says I’ve got to,” Mrs Denham said.
“The Government keeps saying children need to be in school because they need a marvellous education. They are not getting a marvellous education in school because teachers are scared out of their wits.
“It’s not normal in school. Since December everybody’s on edge, you’ve got people who are hysterical and becoming very anxious and worried about their own families.
“It’s very difficult to keep things calm and normal for children.”
The coronavirus infection rate in Slough passed 1,000 cases per 100,000 people this week with Langley Kederminster one of the worst affected areas with 1,305 cases per 100,000 people.
Both Marish Primary and Willow Primary had to close early last term due to a COVID-19 outbreak, believed to be linked to the new variant, which saw 36 staff across both sites test positive for the virus.
Mrs Denham added: “All adults working in the school environment need to be vaccinated as a priority. That is the only way you are going to allay the fears.”
Both schools remain open for children of key workers and those in need of support with about 100 attending across both sites.
But Mrs Denham said the lack of IT equipment made available for disadvantaged pupils by the Department for Education was a ‘travesty’.
“I would say that 50 per cent of our children across both schools will find it difficult to access online learning because they don’t have a device,” she said.
“Although their houses may have a device, it will be shared between multiple people.”
Mrs Denham added: “We’ve done some wonderful things in the last few years in terms of improving educational outcomes for children and were just on the cusp of doing really well and this happened and it’s just sad people’s life chances are going to be compromised again.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said the Government has committed to providing more than one million devices to help schools and colleges throughout the pandemic.
A statement added the Government is working with leading UK mobile network operators to provide access to educational sites.
COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be prioritised to those with the most clinical need, including those over 70, older residents in care homes and health and social care workers, the spokesman added.
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