Staff absences "through the roof" amid Omicron uncertainty

Pupils in school

The Omicron variant has left teachers and pupils uncertain about what the new year may hold.  - Credit: PA

Staff absences at Norfolk schools have “gone through the roof” in recent days, as the Omicron variant leaves teachers and pupils uncertain about what the new year may hold. 

Schools in more than 30 local authorities across the UK are thought to have moved some classes online in recent days, with some children asked to bring laptops home with them in preparation for the possibility of remote learning in January. 

As of Thursday December 16, Little Snoring Community Primary Academy and East Ruston Infant School and Nursery were both closed for Covid related reasons, while City Academy Norwich had closed for years 7-9 due to a lack of staff. 

Scott Lyons, Norfolk joint division secretary National Education Union (NEU), said that schools staff absences have “gone through the roof”.

Scott Lyons, from the National Education Union. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Scott Lyons, from the National Education Union. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Shortages of teachers and supply teachers have led to heads and deputy heads teaching classes.

“What I’m hearing is that in the last couple of weeks, some schools have had to double up classes,” said Mr Lyons.

“It’s not uncommon to have classes of 35 or 40 in high schools.”

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He said he was glad schools were “getting over the line on Friday” and that staff had put in an “incredible effort”. 

“Staff absences has been one of the biggest challenges for schools this term,” said Tom Rolfe, strategic lead of secondary schools at the Wensum Trust.

Tom Rolfe from Hellesdon High School said the school had hired staff to reduce the number of unautho

Tom Rolfe, strategic lead of secondary schools at The Wensum Trust.

“We’re not just dealing with staff that have been off with Covid-19 – we’ve also experienced an increase due to general sickness, mental health pressures and staff’s own children contracting Covid.

“Furthermore, the lack of supply staff across the county has meant that those that are well enough to teach, are having to stretch themselves even further in order to cover for absent colleagues and to ensure appropriate learning resources are in place for children.”

He said schools were “readily prepared to respond to any changes that may occur during the Christmas break”.

Alison Mobbs, principal at Lynn Grove Academy in Gorleston, said the school had been “very fortunate” and “not badly hit by staff shortages at all”.

Alison Mobbs, principal of Lynn Grove, has said parts of the school have been deep cleaned after thr

Alison Mobbs, principal at Lynn Grove Academy in Gorleston - Credit: Archant

She said the school had plans in place to move to online learning if necessary, as every school is statutorily required to have their own “plan B” in place. 

“I would like all the parents to get behind regular lateral flow testing,” she said. 

“That’s really important, as is clear and timely messaging from the government.”

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