As schools reopen, a survey of primary school staff in Wales shows that they support children going back to their classes, for the sake of their education and social development, but that they also have real concerns.
The survey was completed by 211 staff across Wales, including headteachers, teachers, teaching assistants and support staff, in July 2020.
It was conducted by the team from HAPPEN, a primary school network based in Swansea University Medical School, which brings together education, health and research.
Initial findings from staff responses to the survey are:
• Children need to be in school: there was a feeling by many staff that already in July, some children were showing declines in education and social skills.
• There is anxiety about the effect of returning on their own health, especially if staff were previously in the shielded group.
• Concerns about pupil wellbeing and how best to support individual children, especially those disengaged from learning.
• Concerns also exist over teacher wellbeing, from anxiety over virus transmission, potential staff shortages due to illness/self-isolation, and getting to work with limited breakfast club/after school or childcare options for their own children.
Staff also identified recommendations for the way forward:
• Teachers commented on the benefits of smaller class sizes which, in July, enabled them to support individual children better.
• It was felt that investing in more staff would enable smaller class sizes, enhance learning, and improve pupils’ and staff wellbeing.
• Greater support for wellbeing for pupils and staff: when asked what support they needed, "supporting learner health and wellbeing" was the most frequent response.
• Clear guidance and communication at all levels: this was a key recommendation, in relation to the virus situation now but also to any future lockdown.
Professor Sinead Brophy of Swansea University Medical School, Director of the Centre for Population Health, said:
“Our survey showed that school staff need clear information in time to act. They have real concerns around health and well-being, both for staff themselves and their pupils.”
Charlotte Todd, Wellbeing lead for the Centre for Population Health, said:
“Clear priorities for the way forward also emerge from the survey including greater investment into the wellbeing of both teachers and pupils and clearer guidance and communication at all levels”.
Further results from the survey will be published shortly.