Politics

Entire school years may need to be ‘sent home due to Covid staff shortages’


Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said headteachers would be “scenario planning” for the new term and deciding which year groups to prioritise

Schools are drawing up plans to send whole year groups home, it has been reported

Schools are drawing up plans to send whole year groups home for remote learning if staff shortages due to Omicron hit after the Christmas holidays, it has been reported.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to be presented with the latest Covid data on Monday as he weighs up whether to impose fresh restrictions on England to stem the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

New measures have already come into force in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but ministers have so far swerved dictating new rules to those in England, instead hoping warnings would encourage people to self-police their own behaviour and cut down on social contacts.

Mr Johnson is reportedly expected to not announce new lockdown restrictions for England today.

It is understood school closures are not being considered by ministers for January.







Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has reassured parents that school closures are not being considered
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Image:

Sky News)

A source close to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told the Telegraph : “The PM and Nadhim are fully committed to keeping schools open and there’s a shared commitment across Government to do so.

“Education is a top priority and school closures are not something being considered.”

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the Telegraph, headteachers were “hoping for the best but planning for the worst”.

He said: “If you have a fixed pool available of those who can teach young people, then the only final resort schools and colleges have is to start thinking about the certain year groups that should be prioritised in the short term.”







Heads would be ‘scenario planning’ for the new term, it is claimed
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Image:

Getty Images)

Mr Barton said heads would be “scenario planning” for the new term and explained that this included “making decisions about what would be the priority groups coming back in if it were needed”.

He said that one approach would be to keep Year 11 and Year 13 in school for face-to-face lessons, while other year groups are sent home to learn remotely.

It comes as the latest NHS figures showed that more than 10,000 patients waited 12 hours before being admitted to hospital in November, up from 2,148 the same time last year.

While a record number of NHS trusts recorded patients had waited nearly 24 hours between arriving at hospital by ambulance and being assessed.

Data from NHS England for October 2021 records the longest waits between arriving at A&E and an initial assessment.

And almost one-third of all trusts recorded a longest wait of between 23 and 24 hours. Some 23 trusts reported the longest wait for an assessment was 1,439 mins, just one minute short of 24 hours.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Health leaders are responding to the pressures that increasing numbers of hospital admissions, and increasing levels of staff absence, are already placing on frontline services.

“Now is the time for the Government to be clear on what action it needs to take to get a grip on the situation.”

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