Staff absences expected to increase in schools this quarter, admits Education secretary

Staff absences are likely to increase in schools this quarter, the education secretary admitted.

Adhim Zahawi told MPs that teaching must remain face to face for children to have the best learning experience.

He said: “We need to do whatever we can, whatever we can to keep all education and child care facilities open and teach in person.”

Describing the measures for schools in England at the start of the new term, the Minister added: “Schools will suffer from a certain degree of staff absenteeism.

“At the end of last year the figure was around 8% of the staff, and that’s likely likely to increase with the increase in cases in school and of course young people as we go back to school. “

We need to do whatever we can, whatever we can to keep all education and child care facilities open and teach in personEducation Secretary Nadhim Zahawi

Last month, the education secretary called on former and retired teachers to return to the classroom as part of efforts to tackle staff shortages.

Mr Zahawi said the first former teachers’ volunteers have returned to schools, including Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell and Stoke-on-Trent North MP Jonathan Gullis.

But he told MPs he would have a “better idea” of the exact number of former teachers who have come forward by “the end of this week”.

Students across the country are heading back to class this week after the holidays, with new advice for high school students in England to wear face covers during class amid an increase in Covid-19 cases.

School leaders have expressed fears that staff shortages will worsen during the new term and further disrupt children’s education.


(PA Graphics)

Images of the press association

(PA Graphics)

Some schools are reporting that up to one in five staff members could go missing after the Christmas holidays.

Ahead of the start of the term, the Department of Education (DfE) told school leaders that they might consider “regrouping classes” if there is a shortage of staff to maintain face-to-face teaching.

But a coalition of unions has suggested that schools that regularly ask staff to teach more students in merged classrooms when there is a shortage should be challenged.

A “safety checklist” of five unions representing teachers and support staff says the class merging “should not be passed” as it “will increase the transmission of the virus” and lead to “further disruption”.

The notice – from the National Education Union (NEU), teachers’ union NASUWT, Unison, GMB and Unite – urges teachers who are supposed to systematically accept extra students to combine classes to meet “emergency” with their union.

It comes after Mr Zahawi urged chiefs to consider merging classes or sending groups of children home, if the number of employees on sick leave due to Covid-19 reaches critical levels .


Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi urged principals to consider merging classes (PA)

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi urged principals to consider merging classes (PA)


Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi urged principals to consider merging classes (PA)

Addressing the reintroduction of face masks in classrooms, Zahawi admitted to MPs on Wednesday that the situation was “not ideal”, “entertaining for children” and not great “for the well-being of any child” .

He said he had tasked his department to study the impact of wearing masks on children.

But Zahawi added that school face coverings “will help reduce transmission at a time of high infection rates.”

He said: “My department also looked at some observational data from a sample of 123 schools where face coverings had been used in the fall term and found that there was a greater reduction in absence of Covid compared to those where students did not wear faces. coatings.

The education secretary said classroom face covers would be recommended “for the shortest time possible” and added that he hopes they can be removed after a review of the data on January 26.

Mr. Gullis asked Mr. Zahawi to be reassured that the reviews will take place.

The Education Secretary replied, “I can absolutely give him that assurance.”

Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said for the government “children are never a priority.”

Ms Phillipson told the House of Commons: “Children have to be wrapped in their coats to learn. He is incompetent, complacent and inadequate. Our children deserve better.

She added: “At the time of vaccination, as of December 30, barely half of eligible children aged 12 and over had even received their first vaccination. Now we saw last month with the reminder what can be done when the political will is there. But for this government, our children are never a priority.

“Regarding testing, the government has encouraged parents to make sure their children have lateral flow tests twice a week. Now I watched the lateral flow tests online last night. There was none for home delivery. We cannot test our children twice a week if there are not the tests available to do so. “

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