NASUWT teaching union survey gives insight into impact rocketing Covid rates are having on Sunderland schools
Many of the city’s pupils and teachers are feeling high levels of anxiety and rocketing Covid rates are having a “major impact” on Sunderland’s schools.
That’s the view of Brian Wilson, the Sunderland Secretary of the country’s largest teaching union, the NASUWT, following a regional survey giving an insight into the damaging impact Covid is having on the capacity of North East schools to function as staff and children returned after the Christmas holiday.
The survey revealed many of the region’s teachers felt staffing issues were having an impact on the capacity of schools to operate, with 27.08 per cent describing the impact as “major” and 59.28 saying it was having “some impact”.
Nearly half of teachers (45.28 per cent) said they’d been asked to cover for colleagues who were absent due to Covid.
Former Maths teacher Mr Wilson said: “I’m not surprised. It doesn’t take many people to be off work to impact on how schools operate and children’s education. I’m hearing of reports across the city of teachers losing all their preparation time to cover for colleagues.
"Teachers are willing to do so in the short term but it’s not something which is sustainable.
"It’s also very difficult to get supply staff. All the supply teachers I’ve spoken with are inundated with offers and are able to pick and choose where they go as there’s simply not enough to go round.”
With the latest Covid prevalence rate for the city’s 10 to 14-year-olds coming in at 2,287.5 per 100,000 people, teachers are also experiencing high levels of anxiety with 30.92 per cent of local teachers feeling “quite anxious”, while 21.75 per cent said they were “very anxious” about the current situation.
Mr Wilson added: “It’s also a very anxious time for pupils with what’s now becoming a third year of disruption.”
One of the most worrying outcomes of the survey was that 13.28 per cent of the region’s teachers said face coverings in classrooms was not being followed, despite Government policy stipulating it’s now mandatory.
While the majority of respondents said there was “effective” provision for on-site testing, only 41.88 per cent said they were aware of their school’s policy to deploy CO2 monitors to assess ventilation quality – one if the key strategies in mitigating the spread of Covid.
Mr Wilson said: “I was surprised at how many teachers said schools were not following mask wearing and if we were to find any school in Sunderland not implementing this then we would be onto the Health and Safety department at the Local Authority to ensure it was being adhered to.
"The issue of ventilation during winter can be a big problem. I’ve had a number of staff across the city get in touch about how to ensure rooms are ventilated while the temperature not being too low for children to work. It’s a real dilemma.
"We’ve been lobbying the Government to provide air purifiers to reduce transmission and help keep schools open.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman replied: “We are helping conduct mass testing, bringing in supply staff and increasing ventilation support with CO2 monitors and air purifiers, while there will be no Ofsted inspections while testing is happening.
"Combined with the hard work of schools, we are confident our measures will maximise classroom time for students.”