Schools face Covid disruption until EASTER: Education Secretary warns classes will be cancelled until spring because of staff sickness as he calls on retired teachers to help out TODAY

  • Nadim Zahawi is calling on ex-teachers to help schools battle staff shortages 
  • Schools are said to be experiencing low attendance from teachers and pupils 
  • Omicron wave is expected to bring about higher levels of staff absence in spring
  • Government is asking those who left the profession recently or who trained to do the job but changed career to ‘find even a day a week for the spring term’

Schools will likely see disruption until Easter as a rise in Omicron cases sparks a wave of staff absences, Nadim Zahawi warned as he issued a desperate call for qualified teachers to sign up to help.  

The Education Secretary is calling on qualified teachers – who left the profession or who pursued other careers – to apply on the Get Into Teaching website as soon as possible, ideally before Christmas Eve, so they can join the workforce in January. 

Schools have been experiencing low attendance from both teachers and pupils ahead of the winter break, and Department for Education (DfE) officials admitted yesterday that they expect Omicron to bring about high levels of staff absence throughout the spring term.  

The Government is now asking retired teachers to ‘come forward and join the national mission’ amid fears that the number of teachers forced into self-isolation by the coronavirus variant could lead to school closures or entire year groups being sent home.

Schools will likely see disruption until Easter as a rise in Omicron cases sparks a wave of staff absences, Nadim Zahawi warned (pictured: Parents doing the school run in September)  

New push to cut ten-day Covid isolation period to a week after experts warn that current rules could cripple the economy 

Ministers are considering slashing the quarantine period for people who test positive for Covid from ten to seven days.

As reported in Saturday’s Daily Mail, health experts, MPs and business leaders have called for a change, warning that the current rules risk crippling healthcare and the economy.

Anyone who is infected with the virus must isolate for ten days after first developing symptoms or testing positive. 

But the ‘blunt tool’ fails to account for infectiousness and is fuelling ‘lockdown by stealth’ by keeping so many people at home.

Now it has emerged that modelling by government scientific advisers indicates it would be possible to reduce the isolation period without having a significant impact on infection rates if people had a negative test before they were released.

Sources say the change in policy is ‘being looked at’ to stop the country grinding to a halt.

It even has the backing of Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, whose doom-laden forecasts prompted previous lockdown measures.

Education Secretary Mr Zahawi said: ‘It has been my absolute priority since day one in the role to do everything in my power to protect education – which is why today I am asking any teachers no longer in the profession to come forward if they are available to temporarily fill absences in the new year.

‘Although 99.9% of schools have consistently been open this term, with cases of Omicron increasing we must make sure schools and colleges have the teachers available to remain open for face-to-face education.

‘Anyone who thinks they can help should get the process started now on the Get Into Teaching website, and everyone should get boosted now to help reduce the amount of disruption from the virus in the new year.’

The DfE said in a statement: ‘The Omicron variant is expected to continue to cause increased staff absence levels in the spring term, and some local areas may struggle to find sufficient numbers of supply teachers available unless former staff come forward.’ 

Dr Nikki Kanani, Medical Director of Primary Care for NHS England and NHS Improvement, also called on teachers and school staff to get a Covid booster jab during the Christmas break.

Dr Kanani, a south east London GP, said: ‘We’re asking teachers to come forward during the school holidays to get protected before school starts again.

‘We have got pop-ups, we’ve got mobile units, we’re working with community and faith leaders to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to get this protection, so please come forward.’

The Department for Education (DfE) said in a press release that some local areas may struggle to find sufficient numbers of supply teachers available unless former staff come forward.

DfE staff eligible to come forward, who are not working on the Department’s own covid response, will be released to do so. 

The Disclosure and Barring Service said it will be ready to meet ‘any spikes in demand for its service’.

The Government is also working with Teach First to help bring about a temporary return to the classroom for those who trained as teachers but work in other jobs currently. 

Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First said: ‘Teachers have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic, doing an inspirational job to support their pupils and communities in the face of adversity. 

‘Yet the disruption to school life and extended periods at home mean pupils’ education has inevitably suffered, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

‘Given the challenges that schools now face, we want to see what more can be done to help – including how we, and those of our alumni who have trained as teachers but currently work outside the profession, may be able to support schools to remain open safely in the new year.’

The Government had previously set up a temporary register in March 2020 to support former social workers to return to frontline practice.    

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