School's Out: The HLTA Perspective

Following the Government's announcement to close schools across the UK amid the COVID-19 crisis, we spoke to Lisa, a Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) in South Wales, to understand how she feels about the ongoing uncertainty.


How do you feel about the communications received through your school up to now about the ongoing COVID-19 situation?

It’s been really good. The school as a whole has kept everyone in the loop as much as possible - parents and staff. But the information hasn’t come from the government, or local council, fast enough. Some teachers didn’t know schools were closing until they read it in the news – that should have come directly to them much earlier.


What’s the biggest challenge facing HLTAs and other teaching assistants?

A lack of information. We’ve been told school hubs are being kept open, where the children of essential workers will be going each day, but there’s still uncertainty around what we need to do, where we should be working. Up to now, we’ve been told our salaries are safe, but we don’t know how long for.


How are other staff feeling at the moment, especially teachers you work with?

Emotional. That word has come up time and time again in the past few days.

 The job of teachers is exactly that, to teach children, and now they feel they can’t do that. And with the vulnerable children we support, and can keep a check on daily, now we’re worried more than ever for their welfare. If we’re not seeing them every day, there’s less certainty for their safety. Apprehension is the other major feeling now, about the lack of clarity around what the coming weeks and months are going to look like.


How do you think the children are feeling, and coping, with the uncertainty?

Depends on their age range. Year 4 onwards are really anxious, a lot of them are under the impression this big scary virus is going to kill everyone. The younger children have been asking questions, but they don’t understand what’s really going on. Some parents are referring to COVID-19 as ‘the germ’ as a way of opening up some conversation with their children, and keeping them informed in an age-appropriate way. But of course, most are just very much looking forward to having a very long holiday – without realising that they’re pretty much going to have to stay inside.


What support do you think those working in and around education need in coming weeks and months?

A clear understanding of what’s going to happen. We need the government, and councils, to be clear on what they are going to do, and what they need from us. And information – we need information as and when the government or councils receive it. If we’re going to do the best for our children, its vital we stay in the know.


Read more from our School's Out series