PARENTS and kids have been warned that schools could face disruption until Easter because of staff off sick with Omicron.
Nadhim Zahawi is begging retired teachers to get back into the classroom to plug the likely slew of absences and keep lessons going in-person.
But his Education Department this morning told mums and dads that schooling would remain chaotic throughout the coming spring term.
It said: “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.”
Fretting parents fear once again having the nightmare of arranging last-minute childcare.
Boris Johnson has declared education a “national priority” and vowed schools would be the last to close in any future lockdown.
His spokesman today said there were “no plans” to close schools in the New Year.
Agitator teaching unions have been demanding fresh measures in the New Year such as staggering the return of pupils.
Secondary schools will be given “flexibility” on their return dates to let them get a robust testing regime up and running.
But even without restrictions education – like other parts of society – will grapple with staff isolating as Omicron rips through the country.
Officials hoped that by Easter most of the disruption would have passed but issued a call to arms for former teachers to go back to the whiteboard.
Mr Zahawi rallied: “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 per cent 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.
Education unions and Labour have warned that the Government’s actions are unlikely to be enough to solve the staff shortages problem, saying they came too late in the day for an already-critical situation.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Having a greater number of supply teachers to call upon could be helpful, but it will not take away from the very challenging circumstances schools find themselves operating under.
“We need to be very clear that if things get to this stage, it will mean that education will look very different in January and we could be talking about a very different type of provision at the start of next year. That has huge implications for things like exams, assessment and inspection.”
Shadow schools minister Stephen Morgan said: “This is a sticking plaster, and only part of what’s needed to keep children and staff safely in class next term.
“The Government’s failure to get a proper workforce plan in place leaves staff, children and parents relying on goodwill from retired staff and volunteers, many of whom face additional risks themselves.”