Almost one in 10 South Cheshire schools are on the brink of needing to switch to rotas or remote learning as so many staff are off.
The figures have been revealed in a Cheshire East Council survey, which has shown some schools are struggling to provide classroom cover.
Schools say the biggest workforce issue at the moment is teachers and teaching assistants having to take time off.
This includes staff who have come into contact with people who have tested positive for coronavirus and need to self-isolate. While a number of others are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
The survey, which had a particular focus on clinically vulnerable staff, attracted responses from more than 80 per cent of the borough’s schools. Results showed:
- Seventy per cent of schools were concerned about workforce absence, although they anticipated their school would remain open for pupils;
- Nine per cent said their school was regularly experiencing significant absence and was close to the point where they may have to move to pupil rotas or remote learning;
- Nineteen per cent of schools said they’ve had issues with access to supply or temporary cover. This rose to 40 per cent for special schools;
- Twenty-nine per cent said funding was the biggest constraint in keeping their school fully open during the pandemic.
The council has set up an education Covid response team to help schools affected by coronavirus cases.
A report, drawn up for cabinet members, states: “Through providing support to settings in their contact tracing, the numbers of children and staff needing to isolate in response to a positive case has significantly reduced over time, meaning there is less impact on pupils’ learning.
“We ran public health briefing sessions in November, where schools shared the learning from their cases in order to help to continue to minimise infections and disruption to learning. As a significant number of pupils and teachers are isolating, the support needed for schools is considerable.”
Up-to-date figures for student and staff attendance across Cheshire East are not available.
But on November 11, there were 66 pupils and 34 staff who had tested positive for coronavirus. These cases were spread across 47 schools.
Figures from the following week show 2,659 pupils were self-isolating because they had either got symptoms, come into contact with someone who had the virus or had been confirmed to have Covid-19 themselves.
The cabinet report also reveals pupil behaviour has become a growing issue since schools reopened this term.
It adds: “We are seeing an increase in schools saying they will exclude pupils as they can’t cope with the behaviour of the children – some are our most vulnerable.
“We are working together with schools on this as a cross-service approach to prevent exclusions wherever possible. To date, we have had two unavoidable exclusions due to serious one-off incidents.”
There has also been a growing number of schools challenging the local authority on why it is not issuing fixed term penalty notices or fines for pupil absence.
Officials say there is a balancing act between putting in the right support to help families who are ‘reluctant or anxious about attending school’ and using parental responsibility measures.
To help schools who need to provide remote learning to groups of pupils, the council has created a hub through EdTech. At least 30 schools are receiving a wide range of support to use Google or Microsoft platforms.
-- to www.stokesentinel.co.uk