Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

More than a third of schools had at least 10 per cent of staff absent on the first day of the term this week, as school principals in England warned they were “faltering” due to pandemic-related staff shortages.

According to a survey released by the National Association of Head Teachers on Friday, 37 percent of schools said they could not get enough stock teachers to cover absences, leaving other staff members overwhelmed and some schools forced to send year groups home or to close. completely.

“Many schools are faltering and the next few weeks will undoubtedly be an incredibly challenging time,” said Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT.

“Infection rates – and therefore absenteeism due to illness – could very likely rise as the term progresses,” he added.

After the new Omicron coronavirus variant tore across the UK over the Christmas period, schools in England was ready for widespread disruptionn then term began Tuesday.

Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi insisted that schools “must do everything [their] strength ”to ensure that face-to-face teaching continues, and on Wednesday he gave parliament his“ assurance ”that GCSE and A-level examinations will take place as planned this summer.

But he also acknowledged that in some cases personal learning would be “impossible” and encouraged schools to “flexible ”approaches such as combining classes or moving some online to keep learning. The government has also called on former teachers to join supply agencies to help cover shortages.

While unions have welcomed more flexibility for schools, they have argued the government should do more to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the classroom.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Education Union, said Zahawi “bends before the inevitable” by suggesting that some learning can move online.

While the Department of Education, for example, purchased up to 8,000 air filtration units for classrooms, it did not remain what was needed for nearly 25,000 schools in England, he said.

Whiteman called on the government to provide “unwavering support” to school leaders who “will have to make difficult decisions while confronted with conflicting priorities” and scarce resources.

“School leaders should be free to arrange the delivery of education according to the resources available to them, not on the basis of the normal school week,” he added.

According to the NAHT survey, less than 7 percent of schools said they combined classes or year groups in response to shortages, and 4 percent said they should send classes or year groups home.

Nearly one in 10 said more than 20 percent of their teaching staff were absent.

The education department said: “We have supported schools to continue classroom learning for pupils by encouraging former teachers to step in and expand the Covid workforce fund for schools experiencing the greatest staffing and funding pressure.”

The opposition Labor Party said the “strong figures” showed an “incompetent, complacent and inadequate” response from the government.

“The government has no plan to prevent or manage thousands of staff being fired from school because of Covid,” said Bridget Phillipson, shadow education secretary.

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