A quarter of teachers say Covid staff absences are having major impact on their schools

  • Quarter of teachers said staff Covid absences having a major impact on schools
  • Almost half of teachers have been asked to cover lessons for absent colleagues
  • Teaching chief Dr Patrick Roach said it intensified an already difficult situation

A quarter of teachers said staff absences due to Covid-19 are having a major impact on their schools.

Close to half of teachers have been asked to cover lessons for absent colleagues, according to the poll by teaching union NASUWT of almost 7,000 of its members.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT, warned higher rates of staff absences were making ‘a very challenging situation much worse’, adding teacher shortages were likely to rise.

Dr Patrick Roach (pictured), general secretary of teaching union NASUWT, said higher staff absence rates in schools made ‘a very challenging situation much worse’

Dr Roach said: ‘It is very concerning that our members are telling us that staff absences due to Covid are having serious impacts on teaching and learning.

‘Higher rates of staff absence are making a very challenging situation much worse for schools struggling to maintain appropriate staffing levels without disrupting pupils’ education.

‘Whilst the start of term saw around one in 10 teachers absent due to coronavirus, these numbers are likely to increase in the absence of effective measures to ensure Covid-safety in classrooms.

‘It is disturbing teachers tell us that in some schools there is no effective system in place for deploying CO2 monitors in classrooms.

‘Urgent additional investment is needed in providing air filtration units to every classroom where they are needed. Ensuring good ventilation is vital to minimising further disruption to pupils’ education.

‘Inviting schools to bid for the limited number of air purifiers that are being made available by the Government is simply not good enough. The safety of pupils and staff in classrooms should not be a lottery.’

Pupils returned to class last week after the Christmas break, with new advice for secondary school and college students in England to wear masks in classrooms (File image) 

Coronavirus cases dropped by almost 10% compared with last week’s tally, a glimpse of hope amid the Omicron surge

However, the number of deaths rose in the last week by 83.3%, from 42 to 77 in real terms

Hospitalisations also continued to rise, up to 2,332 compared to 2,258, an increase of 3.3%

The survey came as pupils returned to class last week after the Christmas break, with new advice for secondary school and college students in England to wear masks in classrooms.

The Department for Education (DfE) is due to release its pupil and staff attendance figures for the start of term on Tuesday. 

Around an one in eight staff surveyed said guidance on secondary school and college pupils wearing face masks in classrooms was not being followed.

A Department for Education spokesman said schools and staff were ‘working tirelessly to ensure classrooms are safe for face-to-face learning’ (File image)

One in ten said there was no effective system in place for testing pupils onsite. 

A DfE spokesman said: ‘Schools across the country reopened last week and staff are working tirelessly to ensure classrooms are safe for face-to-face learning, and despite the challenges in the first week of term, millions of pupils have returned to be with their friends and teachers.

‘We’ve supported schools to continue classroom teaching for pupils through encouraging former teachers to step in, and extending the Covid workforce fund for schools that are facing the greatest staffing and funding pressures.

‘We’ve also asked schools to have contingency plans to maximise attendance and minimise disruption to learning, should they have high rates of staff absence, and are working with the sector to share case studies of flexible learning models to support the development of those plans.’

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