Honiton headteacher laments lack of warning as government’s school closure plan leaves students in tears

PUBLISHED: 14:00 19 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:09 19 March 2020

Honiton Community College. Ref mhh 48 18TI 5831. Picture: Terry Ife

Honiton Community College. Ref mhh 48 18TI 5831. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

The headteacher of a Honiton school said students have had a ‘comprehensive set of reactions’ to the government’s announcement of a nationwide education shutdown.

Glenn Smith, head of Honiton Community College, said sixth formers have been left in tears after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all schools in England will shut their gates from this Friday.

The shutdown means thousands of students across England will not sit their GCSEs and A-levels.

Mr Smith said: “Sixth form students have been preparing for years, most of their lives, to this point and were wanting to perform in these exams.

“They wanted to prove to themselves and their families and their schools and make them proud of what they were working towards. They are devastated by this – some of them are clearly visibly upset.”

Mr Smith said the government’s lockdown on schools is a ‘travesty’.

He said teachers understand why, with the peak of Covid-19 being in the middle of the exams window, the decision was made.

However, Mr Smith has lamented the timing of the government’s decision - which has left schools with just a 48-hour window to try and sort out the future of thousands of students across the country.

Mr Smith said: “We saw it coming. Why on earth didn’t they do this sooner rather than later?”

Mr Johnson’s announcement, made on Wednesday afternoon (March 18) reiterated the importance of supporting ‘key workers’, such as police personnel and delivery drivers, who are also parents.

But Mr Smith said he and other teachers at the college have been ‘besieged’ with questions, and is seeking clarity on what constitutes a ‘key worker’.

He said: “What I personally would have liked, and I’m sure it would have been possible, is a greater length of time with regards to a heads up.

“If it’s all part of their [government’s] modelling, which is what they are trying to reassure us when the briefing went out, then what would have been good is if we were given a heads up, ideally a couple of weeks ago.

“We are left with two days maximum with which to put all these plans into place.”

Mr Smith said the college will remain open beyond the closures to assist vulnerable students and youngsters who receive free school meals.

The college canteen will open for a small window daily, a plan which was already put in place before Mr Johnson’s announcement.

The college has also drawn up a three-phase action plan to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.

The first phase, which is in effect from now until Easter, has seen the college organise work for stay-at-home students.

Mr Smith said: “The system will go live this weekend.

“Basically, our aim was to make the work set purposeful and achievable for our students and also manageable for our staff. It is being planned in two-week cycles.”

The second phase, for the duration throughout Easter, will see the college try and continue to keep provision for young people.

Mr Smith said while it is ‘wholly uncharted territory’, he has been humbled by some colleagues who have already offered their services.

The third phase, beyond Easter, is still in the works - but Mr Smith is hoping to launch a project which consists of a more joined-up form of provision between schools in Honiton and surrounding parishes.

The details are yet to be finalised.


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