Call for Welsh Government to “mobilise army of ex teachers” to ease spring term Covid pressures
The Welsh Conservatives want the government in Wales to “follow in the footsteps” of their English counterparts and invite “an army of ex-teachers to return to classrooms.”
The Omicron variant is expected to cause increased staff absence levels in the spring term, and some local areas may struggle to find enough supply teachers available unless former staff come forward.
Some schools need to start planning for pupils to return to online learning, Wales’ first minister has said.
According to a BBC report, Mark Drakeford said teacher and staff illness meant some pupils would return to home learning, but decisions would be made by individual councils, rather than the Welsh government.
UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has called on former teachers to come forward in a bid to support schools and colleges in England snd help them manage staff absence in the new year
The Welsh Conservative shadow education minister Laura Anne Jones MS (pictured above) has said those who are recently retired, or trained as a teacher and moved career, should be asked to consider whether they can find even a day a week for the spring term to help protect face-to-face education.
Calling for the introduction of a similar scheme in Wales, Laura Anne Jones 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.
“However, the disruption to school life and extended periods at home mean pupils’ education has inevitably suffered, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“With cases of Omicron increasing across the country we must make sure schools and colleges have the teachers available to remain open for face-to-face education.
“We have to be prepared for the new term ahead, otherwise our children will again feel the brunt. A ‘call to arms’ such as we’ve seen from Nadhim Zahawi and the Conservatives is a great idea and one we should replicate in Wales.
“I hope the Labour Government gets such a scheme up and running so we can increase support in the classroom and minimise disruption to our children’s education.”
High risk of disruption to Flintshire schools
Schools in Flintshire are facing a “high risk” of disruption caused by the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
A rise in Covid infection rates saw schools in the county switch to remote learning for the last three days of the autumn term.
It followed headteachers in the area reporting problems maintaining staff levels, with the recruitment of supply teachers said to be “virtually impossible”.
Officials from Flintshire Council said the situation was also putting a strain on pupils who are due to take exams.
The local authority’s chief executive Neal Cockerton said in a report: “The autumn term has presented significant challenges in managing the impact of Covid-19.
“Many schools have experienced high case numbers in both pupils and staff which has resulted in a small number of class closures and learners having to switch to remote learning for a short period of time.
“Senior leaders in schools have had to resort to covering classes and in secondary schools there have been occasions where specialist teachers in some subjects have not been available for short periods of time.
“This is particularly stressful for examination year groups who have already missed a considerable amount of school based learning over the course of the pandemic.”
He added: “The reality of these operational challenges are regularly communicated to the Education and Welsh Language Minister and his officials through national network meetings.
“However, the resilience of school leaders is stretched and the ongoing risk of disrupted education for learners remains high, particularly around the uncertainties of the new variant of concern in recent weeks.”
All schools in Wales have been provided with two planning days at the start of next term to test distance learning measures in case they are required.
In Flintshire, the planning days will be held on Thursday, January 6 and Friday, January 7.
It’s expected all pupils in the county will return to school on Monday, January 10.
Community leaders have previously raised concerns over the impact the pandemic has had on youngsters’ physical and mental health.
Mr Cockerton said the council was monitoring the situation closely and ready to provide support.
He said: “A significant number of children and young people across all phases are presenting with health, social and emotional difficulties which can impact on their attendance and their behaviour.
“Schools are regularly updated with information about support and training available to them to upskill staff to manage these challenges.
“Wider use of services such as the integrated youth provision and youth justice service are also being planned for older pupils.”
The report will be presented to members of the council’s Covid recovery committee next Thursday (January 6, 2022).
[Additional Flintshire council reporting – Liam Randall, Local Democracy Reporter] Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com