Gloomy school bosses draw up plans to send whole years home in January if Omicron chaos causes staff shortages

Gloomy school bosses draw up plans to send whole years home in January if Omicron chaos causes staff shortages

January 26, 2022

HEADTEACHERS are drawing up crisis plans to send entire year groups home amid fears Omicron will lay waste to staffing numbers next month.

School chiefs have warned the Prime Minister they may be forced to prioritise key age groups for time in the classroom in January.

Others could be told to stay at home and learn remotely, it's understood.

The biggest threat to keeping children on school grounds will be high numbers of teachers forced into self-isolation after testing positive for Covid, it's believed.

A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron is milder than other strains, with the risk of hospitalisation between 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.


But despite the good news, schools may still face difficulties in the weeks to come, with The Sun exclusively reporting last week that there's trouble ahead.

Primary schools in villages and small towns are especially at risk of teacher shortages, given they have small numbers of staff, it's reported.

Government officials have repeatedly refused to guarantee schools will remain open to youngsters in the new year, although the PM is reportedly "absolutely determined" to send kids back in January.

Disruption is likely until at least Easter – and retired teachers are being urged to return to work to help fill in, with hundreds reportedly answering the call.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the Telegraph headteachers were “hoping for the best but planning for the worst”.


He told the publication: “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.”

Students in years 11 and 13 may continue to attend, while other year groups remain at home, he said.

Boris Johnson will meet government scientists and advisers on Monday morning for an update on Omicron.

There has not yet been an update on a possible two-week circuit-breaker, although the PM hopes no further lockdown will be needed.

Officials at the DfE wrote to headteachers earlier this month telling them to “revisit” their outbreak plans and ensure contingency plans are up to date so they are “prepared for any future changes” in January.

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Robert Halfon, the Tory chairman of the education select committee, said: “I’m concerned that even if the Government says they want to keep schools open, schools will continue to send hundreds of thousands of children home.

"If schools are closing or sending lots of children home, they should set up task forces with the schools to work with them to keep them open. They can’t just say this – they’ve got to mean it.”

A DfE 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.”

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