27 October 2020
23 October 2020
As half-term approaches I am contacting you to provide an update on the union’s response to the escalating COVID crisis in the region and describe some developments we will be carrying forward over the break, into November and beyond.
With the whole of the Region now in the second tier of the government’s new community restrictions it is important that we build on the excellent work done in spring and summer to ensure that schools and education professionals contribute meaningfully to the maintenance of safe workplaces and the suppression of community transmission of the virus. While local Branches and school groups continue to negotiate with employers, monitor checklists and react to outbreaks, we have, this week, taken the following steps to ensure the voice of the profession is heard:
• The Joint General Secretaries have written to all employers in the sector to remind them of their legal obligations and citing new evidence on the significance of social distancing, ventilation and infection rates among young people. The same letter reiterates the union’s demand in respect of the safety of high-risk, clinically vulnerable and extremely clinically vulnerable staff
• Branch Secretaries, have written to all Directors of Public Health in the region to examine their role in advising how local partners should work with the public to “prevent, contain and manage” outbreaks of coronavirus with a specific emphasis on education and early years settings
• I have met with (or written to) local Council Leaders, Metro Mayors and Members of Parliament to discuss the circumstances in which it would be appropriate to consider implementing the range of options available to local leaders which are set out in the government’s Contain Framework which was published on 28 August – a time when infection rates were much lower than they are now
• We have arranged a members’ Zoom meeting on 17 November to establish how best to respond to known problems in schools/colleges and co-ordinate activity to maximise our influence over decision makers. If you have not already done so you can register for this Zoom meeting here.
• We have issued posters to every workplace highlighting recommended “Dos and Don’ts” intended to preserve some minimum standards on safety and working conditions
• Via the TUC we have led discussions with other unions in the sector to ensure an effective and joined-up approach consistent with our National Recovery Plan for Education
• We are in the final stages of developing an App for use by school reps (or members in schools without a rep) to flag up COVID safety and workload concerns and escalate them collectively to school leaders with appropriate support from union structures. It is expected that this will be launched on 3 November by text and email.
Much more information, advice and guidance on coronavirus issues can be found on our dedicated webpages.
In the event that current community infection rates do not subside the focus on schools and colleges will intensify in November and members are therefore encouraged to remain in contact with school reps and local officers as a means of informing decisions about a robust and appropriate union response.
On behalf of the NEU Northern Regional Council, I wish you a relaxing half-term and look forward to working with you to meet the multiple challenges we anticipate over the next few weeks and months.
27 April 2020
24 April 2020
My experience of Art teaching by Teams has been mixed; as has even the ordinary daily duty of morning roll call remotely, it has all been challenging. In my usual world, registration is a short, active pastoral time; I know my year 12 form students well and can spot if they are ready to learn. In this new world, I have asked my students to create 'a timetable ' and I know their teachers are sending them work to do during their 'working from home days', I greet them virtually at the start of each day, but none of us really knows what is ahead. I can only be cheery and reassuring and urge them to create a good space and to get down to work.
It’s obvious that kids miss school and so do I.
As an Artist Teacher, I look to Artists for ideas; Robert Rauschenberg in 1953 caused a collective, world- wide intake of breath by asking artist Willem de Kooning to give him a drawing ‘one he would miss’. Rauschenberg then spent a month, as long as we have been on lockdown, erasing the drawing. This durational labour was a difficult daily task; removing layers of work and leaving only a ‘trace’ behind. Resulting in a beautiful work, in both physicality and concept. Rauschenberg called it 'poetry'.
Teaching remotely has made me 'erase' most of what I have known as the teaching day, for over 30 years. I 'erase' the noise and physicality of my days in the Art rooms, the chat at the sink and the joy of the noisy collective jostling, the buzz of creative endeavour. I have worked hard, however, to create an on line teaching presence, as have all my colleagues. I think of what I would need if I was in my student's shoes.
When I’m on a Zoom lesson there are so many things I want to ask the students; about how they are coping, but it all seems intrusive. Instead, like all the teachers I know, I am trying to set tasks that promote independence, a thirst for research, something to distract, challenges that I would have wanted in their situation.
I’ve turned to my ten year old Tumblr account; ‘artistteachercefThe Fleeting Glimpse’ (another nod to de Kooning) and asked my students to set up their own equivalent. This provides a starting point for a more bespoke approach to getting’ evidence’. It’s the process of research and response that I’m looking for, its the start for a critical conversation. Galleries, especially BALTIC, have made superb resources and I think I have become a virtual signpost to the world's museums and artists. There is a whole world 'erased' in the last month, but the traces left have given me opportunity to see the delicate detail that underpinned my school days, I think there is poetry to write...
As a Specialist Speech and Language Teacher, lockdown has brought some real challenges in terms of having direct contact with pupils. I coordinate a Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) Team of therapists, educational psychologists and support assistants and we work intensively with pupils with significant speech disorders or DLD, some of whom have an EHCP. The current situation has made us think outside our normal practice, we are now working much more closely with families as most of our children are staying at home.
Some of us are also shielding due to our own health conditions.
We are devising support programmes and resource packs with the aim of keeping our children actively practising those skills we have worked on but without any expectation for parents to be taking on our specialist role. It's a fine balance trying to provide enough to prevent the children from losing those skills they've worked so hard to achieve whilst not wishing to add to the exceptionally busy lives at home. Many of our families have English as an additional language so we must be mindful of our expectations.
We are experimenting with remote therapy sessions and assessment using shared screens and duplicate resources.
The best thing is to be able to hear or see the children and their parents and let them know we are here, we're thinking about them and still doing our best to provide them with the support they need - thank goodness for technology!
22 April 2020
Working from home as a TA is difficult but as admin to our school website, I have been adding home work for the teachers. I also organised several collage photos of the staff with messages for the children which I added to the School News section.
07 April 2020
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