PUPILS could be sent home from school within weeks of them reopening as rising Covid cases increase fears of a staffing crisis.
Schools could also be forced to close entirely because of the staff shortages caused by the virus – meaning children may have to go back to virtual learning.
Children have returned to school today amid rising covid casesCredit: Reuters
Head teachers have warned that areas with higher cases could struggle with finding enough supply teachers to cover gaps caused by the virus.
Their warnings come after a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 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.
Secondary school pupils now have to wear facemasks in the classroom again with ministers desperately trying to avoid another home-schooling fiasco.
Other worst-case proposals include teaching multiple classes in school halls – which has been blasted by teachers for not being a “long term” solution.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has admitted that facemasks in schools make it more “challenging” for pupils and teachers.
He insisted he would do everything possible to keep schools open, but could not rule out closing them entirely if it were deemed necessary.
Schools currently have enough Covid tests to safely reopen today, but they could close if the virus wipes out a lot of the workforce.
Caroline Derbyshire, executive head at Saffron Walden County High School in Essex, told the Times: “This sort of mass of supply teachers that are supposed to be there — that’s not happened, has it?
“So if we have got shortages, it’ll be colleagues who are in school who’ll be doing most of the covering.
“If you hit a certain point with staff absences in a big school, you’re talking about maybe ten members of staff being off.
“You’ve suddenly got the inability to run a year group — that’s when you start having either year groups or whole parts of schools having to go online, so that’s when you’re going to have that mixed economy of some students being in school and some at home.”
‘NO FURTHER CHANGES’
All students and staff are expected to be tested for the virus on day one of the spring term as planned after the Education Secretary secured millions of kits.
It means that there are enough to test all pupils currently but a global lateral flow shortage could shut classes down in the weeks that follow.
Despite self-isolation rules being changed, teachers might be forced to stay at home for 10 days after testing positive.
It means parents could find themselves plunged into the chaos of last year’s spring term, with pupils and teachers repeatedly being sent home unnecessarily.
Many may have to go back to home schooling or rush to find childcare at the last minute.
Pressure is also ramping up on the Prime Minister to slash self-isolation period from seven to five days.
A senior World Health Organization official claimed it was “advisable” not to adapt coronavirus-fighting strategies based on “early” Omicron data.
But Boris is facing mounting stress to reduce the time period to allow schools and other workforces to get back to normal.
The Government has said there are “no further changes” planned on reducing quarantine periods but insisted the rules would be kept “under review”.