I went back to work at the beginning of September after five months on furlough.
This is what it’s been like returning to work in the classroom.
I work as a Learning Support Assistant (the same role as a Teaching Assistant) in a college of Further Education, working with young people of around 16-18 years old.
The college follows government guidelines regarding covid19. For us, this means we have strict social distancing rules in place.
Desks in each classroom are now two metres apart, and as a result, the classrooms and staff offices have less capacity than before. Typically, most classrooms now can only accommodate 8-10 people at a time, whereas normally there could be up to twenty.
Due to this reduced capacity, we have had to shrink our class sizes, and we only allow 25% of the student population on campus at any given time.
What this means in real terms is that, currently, each student is only on campus twice a week to attend lessons in the classroom. We provide remote learning once a week in addition to this, to make up the hours that they need to complete their courses.
How about PPE?
The college does not enforce the wearing of masks on campus. Students can wear them if they wish, but virtually none do. Staff can also wear face coverings if they wish, but they must provide their own. Teachers are discouraged from wearing masks during lessons, but to be honest, I don’t think I have seen any teachers wearing them at all, either in or out of the classroom.
There are hand sanitizer stations located at all the main entrance and exit points of the building, but none in the classrooms. There is no way for staff to force students to wash or sanitize their hands.
Does it feel safe?
Frankly, being in a classroom with ten or so unmasked teenagers does not feel like the safest way to earn a living. We open windows for extra ventilation and try to maintain two metres distance from everyone, but without PPE it does not feel like we are doing enough to protect ourselves.
I sanitize my hands frequently, we do not share any resources, we wipe down surfaces after use. We cannot hot desk or share office phones. When I need to use a computer I clean it before and afterwards, making sure I wipe down the keyboard, mouse, monitor, the desk itself and the chair I sat on.
As soon as I get home I throw my clothes into the laundry bin and have a shower. It feels great to wash work away down the drain, put on fresh clothes and then hug my children after school.
Were you on furlough? What’s it been like going back to work?