Staff shortages may force schools to prioritise year groups for in-person teaching, union says

Headteachers ‘hoping for the best but planning for the worst’, Geoff Barton from ASCL says

Zoe Tidman
Monday 27 December 2021 00:19
<p>Union says headteachers will be “scenario planning” this week</p>

Union says headteachers will be “scenario planning” this week

Schools may end up sending whole year groups home if they struggle to get enough staff next term, a union boss has warned.

Geoff Barton from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) told The Telegraph headteachers may have to resort to prioritising certain year groups for in-person teaching as “the only final resort” when dealing with staff shortages.

The government has called on ex-teachers to help out amid warnings Covid staff absences have been causing school closures and infections continuing to soar could lead to remote learning making a return next year.

School leaders previously told The Independent staff pressures posed the biggest threat to schools staying open to students next term.

Mr Barton told The Telegraph headteachers were “hoping for the best but planning for the worst” as they prepared to return in the new year.

“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,” the ASCL general secretary told the newspaper.

He said headteachers would be “scenario planning” this week for the spring term, which included “making decisions about what would be the priority groups coming back in if it were needed”.

Earlier this month, the Department for Education said it would help retired teachers and career changers to join supply agencies to increase numbers available to help schools hit by staff absences next term.

Former professionals told The Independent they would not be returning to work in the new year as they were concerned about safety amid the Covid pandemic.

An estimated 2.4 per cent of teachers were not in school on 9 December due to a Covid-related reason, with most of these absences due to staff having Covid.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We know children and young people want to be in the classroom and it is the very best place for their education and wellbeing, which is why protecting face-to-face education continues to be an absolute priority.”

They added: “In response to rising cases and the Omicron variant we have asked older students and staff to wear face coverings in communal areas, and the education secretary has written to all education staff to explain what we’re doing to support the workforce, boost supply teacher capacity, and keep children in school.”

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