Ben Evans of Windlesham House School, Pulborough
Submitted for publication by Natalie Sanderson
Ben Evans, headmaster of Windlesham House School in Pulborough, West Sussex has called for all teachers to be vaccinated ahead of time to ensure the safest return to education for millions of staff and children. This follows the Prime Minister’s announcement to reopen all schools across England on Monday, March 8.
He has also expressed his concerns over the ‘big bang’ approach to children returning, suggesting that there could be a real danger for larger senior schools with more that 1500 pupils to act as a breeding ground for the virus.
Ben said: “Bringing children back to school as soon as possible is vital, but I don’t believe there is a one-size fits all solution for the return of pupils to schools. It very much depends on the size and the age range of the pupils. There is certainly a real danger that sending everyone back at once could prove problematic for larger senior schools, where transmission of the virus will undoubtedly be higher.
“It has become very clear that despite the stringent measures put in place, social distancing is virtually impossible to achieve in schools. For smaller schools, with younger pupils, the risks are of course lower and can be mitigated more easily.”
Despite these concerns, given the length of time that schools have been closed, Mr Evans wholeheartedly believes that now is the right time to begin to bring children back into the classroom.
He said: “It is definitely the right time for schools to start the process of reopening, caution is of course necessary, but children need to be in school to prevent any further damage to their learning and to ensure there is no lasting impact on their mental health and general wellbeing. School is about much more than education, it’s about socialisation, being part of a close-knit community and having access to the myriad of opportunities that being physically in school affords. We are still two weeks away and we just need to tread carefully as a nation.”
On the subject of vaccinations, Mr Evans is very clear that teachers are understandably feeling anxious about the return of hundreds of children and that vaccinations will help alleviate those concerns for many including those who are more vulnerable.
Mr Evans also said: “It is completely understandable for teachers to be feeling anxious right now. The last six weeks have been tough, and few people have escaped completely unaffected. The vaccination roll out has been superb in the UK and we must take into account the science and current data, which suggests the transmission rate is falling.
“Schools have to reopen at some point and there will never be a ‘perfect time’ but now is indeed the time to ensure teachers are vaccinated before schools reopen, or very soon after. This is the safest way to ensure the necessary return to school for millions of children and it will be transformational in ensuring our road to recovery and normality.”
Mr Evans has also reiterated that detailed risk assessments will be carried out in schools and will be mitigated as far as possible. He also believes that regular testing of staff and pupils should give a greater degree of reassurance too.
Windlesham is a leading independent day and boarding prep school for boys and girls aged four to 13 years.
For information about Windlesham House School click here.
— to www.inyourarea.co.uk