A senior nurse working 14-hour shifts on the frontline of the coronavirus battle has praised Jewish school hubs for continuing to educate the children of key workers and provide “normalcy in crazy times”.
Most pupils have been home-schooled since the national lockdown began nearly seven weeks ago. However, the children of key workers have had the option of attending school, while adhering to strict social distancing rules.
Nicky Starkowitz, from Bushey, is a paediatric community nurse, who has been working in west London four days a week, organising the redeployment of nurses for home visits.
Her daughter, Ella, five, ordinarily in reception at Hertsmere Jewish Primary School, has been attending Wolfson Hillel in Southgate, with other children of key workers.
Starkowitz drops off Ella at 8am, while her husband Neil, who runs IT software for supermarket checkout systems, picks her up at 4pm.
“It is a long drive but it makes sense to have school there because Wolfson Hillel has the facilities, whereas Hertsmere is much smaller,” she said.
“We also have a two-year-old, whom my husband drops off at nursery between 8am and 1pm daily. Having this respite gives us both the opportunity to focus on our work in these crazy times.”
Ella has been in a class of about a dozen pupils. “She has different teachers each day, which is a challenge, but it has made her more resilient. She practices her reading, phonics and maths,” she continued.
“It has been a great stress reliever to know she is being taught in an environment that is familiar to her – for example, Fridays is preparing for Shabbat. Additionally, she has made friends with pupils from the other schools.”
Wolfson Hillel, a Jewish state-aided primary is acting as a hub, mainly for children of key workers from schools under the Jewish Community Academy Trust (JCAT), which also includes Sacks Morasha, Hertsmere Jewish Primary School, Moriah Jewish Day School and Rimon Jewish Primary School.
JCAT CEO Kirsten Jowett has tried to run class while protecting the health of staff who volunteered, by ensuring they were on site for
one week and
at least three weeks working offsite on the educational provision at home.
She has recruited 70 staff on the rota to come into school to teach, out of a total of 250 staff who ordinarily work at the five different
Of all pupils
in JCAT, there are 180 children with one key worker parent and
59 with two. “Social distancing is extremely difficult with small children,” Jowett
acknowledged. “We manage this by ensuring vigorous hand- washing on arrival
in the building. We rotate the rooms we use daily to minimise surface transmission.
“We formally organise teaching spaces to allow for distancing. One lovely aspect of this is family groups bond at lunch as they can sit close to each other.”
Hasmonean Primary School, in Hendon, has also been open to pupils whose both parents are key workers.
Headteacher Dr Alan Shaw told Jewish News: “We have 11 children on most days. We set up in our school hall, where they sit at different dining tables to ensure social distancing.”
He added: “The pupils have laptops on which they can do work set and they have organised craft activities.
“They are able to watch educational activities on the large hall screen and there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor exercises.”