An almighty row has blown up over whether children should return to school on June 1.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has called on teachers to do their duty and says the risk of transmission of Covid-19 is no more than any other profession.

However, teachers union say classrooms could become centres of transmission.

Here Mayflower Primary School’s head teacher Liz Bartholomew calls for support from the nation.

STOP blaming teachers, stop shaming teachers, stop trying to make us feel guilty.

We just want our pupils, staff and their families to be safe.

We are not asking for much, we are not letting the country down, we are simply asking for proof that pupils and staff will be safe.

We want our straight forward questions answered.

I am sick and tired of hearing my profession devalued, criticised and vilified on national news and now by the Government.

We are doing our bit for the country; I have been teaching for 26 years, seven of them as a head teacher, and nothing has come close to the pressure we have been under, to the hours we have been working, to the strain we have been under as as with this international crisis, Covid-19.

We have not been at home doing nothing, this has not been an extended holiday.

Allow me to let you in on a secret - despite what the TV dramas depict, despite what the general public believe, teachers do not work 9am until 3pm.

In fact in my 26 years of teaching I have never had a 9am until 3pm day.

If I arrive at school at 7.30am I think I am late; if I leave before 6pm I feel guilty that I am leaving early.

I regularly work an eleven hour day, five days a week.

That doesn’t account for the hours I do at home after school or the hours of catching up I do at the weekend, in between trying to be a parent, doing the shopping, washing, and cleaning.

None of my staff do 9am until 3pm.

They all start the day at least an hour and a half before the pupils, they stay until they are too tired to carry on and they all do more from home.

We work a longer week than any other profession I know (with the exception of, perhaps, doctors).

And don’t even get me started on the issue of school holidays.

Yes, we get 13 weeks a year, split over six holidays; holidays which consist of mainly being ill (many teachers suffer with this; you relax for one day and that’s it, you are hit with a bug from hell and spend the rest of the holiday in bed being sick), doing planning and preparation for going back, and catching up on all the school work. you should have been doing in term time as a subject leader or post holder, but just ran out of time (because our pupils always come first). Even in the holidays I feel guilty if I find myself with 10 minutes spare to read a book or to sit in the garden!

The past eight weeks have been no exception; we have all worked harder and longer than ever before.

Because now we are doing it all in a completely new way; we have had to very quickly learn what distance learning looks like and how it can work for our pupils and their families.

We have printed work, delivered work, planned work, marked work, taught online lessons, read stories, taught phonics, developed online resources, shared learning platforms... and that’s just the educational side.

We have phoned parents, emailed parents, talked to anxious pupils and parents.

We have visited families we were worried about, we have become sounding boards, and social workers - and at the same time we are home schooling our own children, we are worried about our elderly parents who are shielding, worrying if we can pay the mortgage if our partner is furloughed or out of work, we are still shopping, for us and others, collecting prescriptions...trying to keep our head above water.

And what do the press say? They think we are all having a lovely time, on an extended holiday.


We are NOT going to take this ANYMORE. We are sick of it. STOP. STOP NOW.

We have had enough.

We are not being difficult when we say it is not safe to be back at school yet.

Of course, we want to be back at school. We want children to be able to play together, to learn together, to get back to normal, but it won’t be normal.

The school we are being asked to go back to will not be anything like the one the children left.

The children won’t have their usual teachers and familiar adults, they won’t be in their own classrooms, they won’t be learning together, they won’t be sharing resources and equipment, they won’t be in groups or pairs, they won’t see their friends at playtime or at lunch time. They will be distanced from each other.

And, apparently, this is going to be good for be told to completely ignore everything we have taught them about sharing and about collaboration...and to get on with learning ‘to close the gaps’ and prevent the ‘disadvantaged’ from falling behind! Oh, and to enable people to go back to work, because if you are a working parent you only have pupils in reception, Y1 and one has other children who need to be cared for...oh, what, they do?

It’s madness and I am saddened, disheartened and done in.

I am 48 years old and to get a decent pension, I’ve got to do this job for another 20 years.

When will someone stand up for teachers and make it stop?