Schools in one Welsh county facing ‘high risk’ of disruption due to Omicron after the Christmas holidays
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Schools in one Welsh county are facing a “high risk” of disruption after the Christmas holidays due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, it’s been warned.
A rise in Covid infection rates saw schools in Flintshire 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.