With the lockdown exit plan now in place, our children returning to schools and non-essential shops due to reopen, is this truly the beginning of the end?
Two professors from the University of Sunderland – experts in education and business – here have their say on how they expect the classroom and the High Street to look in the coming weeks and months.
Professor Lynne McKenna is Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society at the University and believes the skills student teachers have acquired during the past 12 months will help ensure the next generation of educators are “prepared for any eventuality”.
She said: “This generation of student teachers are going to outstanding teachers of the future.
“The skills they have developed during the pandemic such as adaptability and resilience, not to mention their very well developed technical skills in digital learning and teaching technologies will mean that they are prepared for any eventuality once they become a newly qualified teacher.
“We must remember of course that schools have been open during the whole period for children of key workers and vulnerable children so technically they are not ‘re-opening’ as such.
“It is however, great news that children are returning to school on March 8. I am so pleased that Professor Chris Whitty paid huge tribute to the work that teachers have done during the pandemic, acknowledging that they have done that because they believe so strongly in education.”
“Schools have a couple of weeks to plan and prepare for the return of all children and this affords school leaders the opportunity to also consider providing a placement experience for a student teacher.
“At the University of Sunderland, we have been working very flexibly with schools to tailor individual placements to suit their needs.
“In partnership with our schools, our student teachers have supported face-to-face, hybrid, and virtual support for learning.
“Flexibility and safety are key here. All of our student teachers are offered lateral flow testing before they join a school bubble and we are confident that this will assure schools that the safety of their school communities are of paramount importance to us.”
With non-essential retail and leisure now looking towards an April 12 re-opening date, just how will the “new” High Street look?
He said: “With adjustments to safe work practices, much of manufacturing has managed to continue throughout lockdown.
“But for companies involved in export markets and relying on imported materials there has been the ‘double whammy’ of Brexit adding cost, delays and potentially hitting sales.
“Hospitality and tourism has suffered greatly and put businesses under great strain, despite the furlough and grant support schemes.
“Without emerging quickly ‘low risk’ operating models will mean fewer customers for some time to come due to volume restrictions. Help will still be needed in the coming weeks and months, think ‘eat out to help out’ style incentives.
“For retail it has been a tale of two channels, online replacing high streets which were always under strain but when people were allowed out to shop, they did so with gusto.
“So there will be some latent demand which will benefit the retailers still standing once the doors are open once again in April. Retailers are smarter now too and many more can adapt with the changes to protect their interests in the future.
“We already know that the High Street will never look the same again however, with many big brands now with a future only on the virtual High Street.
“So, it’s a case of how much and how fast for each sector. People will relish as much freedom as is allowed and with the spending held then many will wish to make those purchases soonest.
“After a huge economic shrinkage the bounce-back is likely to be impressive, but phasing will choke back that demand and for good reason.
“A return to lockdown once again really would be the final call for many businesses.”