School chaos as Omicron smacks schools with ‘Double whammy’ impact on teacher shortages

Schools face 'record' staff shortages due to Covid says expert

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Gavin Beart, Divisional Managing Director at REED Education told how the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant ripped through both teachers and supply teachers sparking massive shortages in schools, with tens of thosuands off in a single day in January. The comments follow months of chaos in Britain’s schools amid Coronavirus isolation measures whacked on staff and their families, impacting kids’ education.

Mr Beart noted how in his 18-years in his profession he has “never seen a marketplace so under stress” as an eye watering 47,000 teachers were off on 20th January for Covid or non-Covid related issues.

That is between nine and ten percent of all Britain’s teachers.

He said: “There are always absences in schools, you always have an element of people off through general winter viruses, sickness.”

But the managing director stressed how the spread of COVID-19 has led to “unprecedented” levels of demand unlike he has ever seen before.

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He added how the issue also impacts those supply teachers intended to fill the gaps of teachers off sick, noting how pre-pandemic there was already a shortage of fill-in staff which has now been compounded by the pandemic.

Mr Beart said this has been made worse if supply teachers’ kids are forced to isolate, meaning they cannot go into schools.

He described the situation as a “double whammy” where the permanent and supply teacher workforce are going through the same challenge of isolation, sparking massive shortages.

The teaching expert explained: “For example, we would supply teachers out and if they were then unwell, we would replace them.

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“We would put another supply teacher in to replace the supply teacher, that is becoming challenging to do.”

He went on: “I have never seen demand this high in terms of requirements for supply teachers, traditionally we would take bookings for cover, and you might get one or two bookings per school.

“We are seeing secondary schools and some primary schools order ten to fifteen staff for that morning.”

While he added that astonishingly “some schools reporting as much as 25-percent of the workforce off with Covid or Covid-related isolation.”

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Mr Beart stressed how that is significant as he noted how a secondary school with 150 staff, having 25-percent off at any one time is “really challenging”.

While painting a grim picture, he did stress how the slashing of Covid isolation from ten to 5 day’s “will help” as in the coming weeks.

Experts have warned of the rapid spread of the virus amongst schools and school children, but despite this, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ended mandatory mask wearing on January 27.

In a statement, he said: “We’ve been clear that we removed the requirement for face masks to be worn in classrooms and we will remove advice for face masks to be worn in communal areas from 27 January.”

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