Headteachers are warning of “chaos” in England’s schools as Omicron sweeps across the country, with high levels of staff and pupil absences and reports that parents are planning to keep children home to avoid the virus before Christmas.
School leaders and unions urged the government to introduce more protective measures, including:
- Masks in classrooms
- Better ventilation
- Tougher isolation rules to try to slow the spread of the virus before the holidays.
In areas with high infection rates, some year groups are being sent home to study remotely because not enough teachers or supply teachers are available, and a small number of schools have been forced to move online until the end of term.
In some schools up to half the teaching workforce is unavailable for work due to Covid-related absence, according to the NASUWT union, which is calling for a staggered start to the new term and additional on-site testing facilities in January.
Dr Patrick Roach, the NASUWT general secretary, wrote to the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, on Monday calling for immediate action.
“We ask you to avoid a repeat of the confusion and chaos which last year impacted negatively on public and parental confidence and hampered the hard work of teachers and school and college leaders in their preparations at the start of 2021,” he said.
“An immediate announcement from the government on additional measures for schools and colleges is, we believe, essential before the majority of schools and colleges close for the Christmas break.”