Molly is a senior member of staff at an inner city primary school, and the school’s SENCO (special educational needs co-ordinator). She has been working full time throughout lock-down, whilst the school has been open to vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
She is a single parent, and lives with her 19 year old daughter Sam and her 13 year old son Jake. Her 16 year old daughter splits her time between Molly’s and her dad’s. Her partner Luke moved in at the start of lock-down, and so did Sam’s boyfriend Mo.
Oh, and she lost her little finger three weeks ago after a door was slammed on it.
She is now preparing for the reopening of the school, with reception, year 1 and year 6 children starting back full time on June 3rd.
‘It’s going to be horrible. At the moment it is alright, the kids are actually having a lovely time, but what we are planning for, its going to be fucking horrible. I keep saying I am really worried about the mental health of the children who are coming in, they are going to be stuck, 15 at the most in a class, with one teacher. They are going to spend all day there, they are going to eat in their classroom. We have removed all the soft furnishings; cushions, beanbags, soft toys, any toys with moving parts, they are all totally gone, there are literally just tables and chairs.
Each child is going to be given a pencil case with their own pen and pencil in, that’s it, they can’t touch anyone else’s. They are going to have their own lunch box and water bottle which they have in the classroom. Then there will be marked areas in the playground, where each group can only go to their specific part of the playground, and play there. It is just going to be horrible for them.
This is what I have been telling families. We sent out this massive letter, which is about five pages long; we spent 2 hours together as the senior team last Tuesday writing it, explaining all of the differences, the changes, what we are putting in place, so parents can make an informed decision. We did the best we could. Then I had parents phoning up yesterday saying “so, can you tell me if it’s going to be safe?’ and I just have to say ‘I don’t know, what do I know?’. So all we can do is tell them they have to make an informed choice.
I think it’s wrong (to send kids back now), I really do. That’s what I am really struggling with, because it’s absolutely the wrong thing to do, but I have to support the community by doing the best we can. And we have got all of these disadvantaged kids we are trying to look after, who are kind of better off with us, but it is all so wrong. It makes me angry; I am fuming all of the time at the minute.
That’s what I feel we should be doing as schools at the moment, looking after those children that need to go in, the children who are vulnerable, the families who are vulnerable, not ALL the children in reception, year 1 and year 6. At my school at the moment we have got about 12-15 coming in, and we can keep them safe. Well, they aren’t really socially distancing, but we can keep them safe, we can keep staff safe, but by having more in, its just fucking insane. Children should be going into school, but it should be the ones who absolutely have to.
The government keeps saying how lazy we are, how little we have worked; I have worked non stop since we went into lock-down. I didn’t have a break at Easter, and we won’t have a break for the May holiday. As part of the safeguarding team, we were still phoning everybody that needed it through the Easter holidays, to make sure the children were okay. It is actually not a break at all. I am getting really fed up with people just not understanding how much teachers are working.
The teachers that I am working with are working so much, and the senior lead team I am in, we are working, proper working, but I am so glad I am not a headteacher. My headteacher is probably sleeping about two or three hours a night. Because there is so much coming in from all sides. From the government, from the academy, from parents, from staff, going ‘what are you doing to look after us?’. It is just insane.
I have been organising fruit and veg boxes for our families who have no money. And you know the government has said that reception, year 1 and year 6 children need to go back? They are saying that parents can opt for them not to go back, but if the school is open and the parents decide not to send their child back, if their child is receiving free school meals they won’t get their supermarket vouchers any more (children in the UK whose families are on a low income receive a supermarket voucher every month to replace free school meals).
And my home life? I had no time to myself before, I literally have no space, no minutes to myself at all now. I just want a little bit of time to myself, just me.
And my finger? I have never felt pain like it, ever. Jake came back from his dad’s, and came back really angry, and he was banging around in his room, so I had gone up, I tried to speak to him but he wouldn’t, and I started to pull the door shut, but he ran and slammed the door, and my finger came off and fell on his foot and he passed out. I was just looking at my finger, and the adrenaline was so high, it looked pretty normal to me. Luke was saying we need to go to A&E, and I was saying ‘it’s okay’. It was really traumatic.
He took me to A&E and I had to go in on my own, I didn’t have my phone. There were three people in A&E, it was so quiet. I was talking to the triage nurse about it, is it because people who used to be in a&e shouldn’t be there, should be looking after themselves, or is it because people are doing less. Is it because people aren’t out and drunk?
I had to return for an operation the next day, I had a local anaesthetic, because they don’t really want to be giving people general anaesthetics at the moment. I could feel everything; I could feel them cutting the bone away, I could feel it being filed. It was horrible.
I took two days off work then worked from home for three days.
There is one good thing about my finger, and that is I can’t wash up or cook or anything like that, so everyone is having to pull their weight a bit more. It is well stressful, considering I am a single Mum, used to running the house on my own, and I have had two males move into the house, two more adults, and I am still the one with that woman’s baggage where we have to constantly think about everything that has to be done; no-one else picks up the slack. So even though they say they will help, you are still the one who has to direct them to do stuff.
And there is no space, there is no space at all. There is no space for anybody, and they all say to me ‘it’s really good for you, you get to leave the house and go to work’. Whilst you are all sat there in your rooms having some time on your own. Then I get home and they all say ‘can I have some of your time, can I have some time? I need some attention now!’ When do I get a chance to give myself some attention?
I don’t get to go out for a walk or anything because literally my days are, I get up, I am working 8 hours, then people are demanding my time, and get offended if I don’t want to give it to them. You would have thought this would have been an ideal time to spend reading books and stuff? Fuck that. I am still reading the same book I was reading when we went into lock down.
I am lucky having Luke here, but I have decided we are not living together. At the start, when the schools shut on the Thursday, I rang him up and said they are going to lock down next, you have to come over. He was living on his own in a caravan, working as a gardener, he would have no work, be stuck on his own with no internet. It’s lovely, but it’s just another person I am responsible for. Mo moved in because Sam and Mo didn’t want to be apart. I am used to my own house, I am used to things being in the right place, I am used to things being done in a certain way, I am used to being able to sit on my own occasionally.
I get so overwhelmed with everything, how can I be the responsible person for everyone around me? I don’t want to look after everyone.
When this is over I just need the biggest holiday.’
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