Welsh Conservatives want ex-teachers to return to classrooms to fill Omicron sickness vacancies
The Welsh Conservatives have called on the Welsh Government to follow England and invite ex-teachers to return to classrooms to help fill sickness vacancies caused by the Omicron variant.
The UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi MP asked former teachers who have the skills and time to return to the classroom to sign up for a return earlier this month.
The Omicron variant is expected to continue to cause increased staff absence levels in the spring term, he said.
Today the Welsh Conservative shadow education spokesperson Laura Anne Jones called for the Welsh Government to take the same step.
The Senedd Member said that 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, providing they pass the standard comprehensive background checks.
“Teachers have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic, doing an inspirational job to support their pupils and communities in the face of adversity,” Laura Anne Jones said.
“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.”
The Welsh Government have not yet announced any changes to how schools will run in January, saying that measures implemented in November will be kept under review.
That means that advice to all staff and secondary-aged learners to use face coverings in communal areas and classrooms where physical distancing cannot be maintained will remain in place for the return in January.
They have also told schools to set aside two planning days at the start of the spring term will enable schools to assess staffing capacity and put the necessary measures in place to support the return of all learners.
“What we learn about the Omicron variant over coming weeks may require interventions for the higher risk levels as set out in our Local Decision Framework,” the Welsh Government said in updated guidance on 16 December.
“As a precautionary approach, we advise schools to plan mitigations for the return based on the ‘very high’ risk level as set out in the Framework.”
The UK Government meanwhile said they were using targeted communications across a range of government and social media to encourage those eligible to apply to return to teaching.
UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “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% 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.
“Anyone who thinks they can help should get the process started now on the Get Into Teaching website, and everyone should get boosted now to help reduce the amount of disruption from the virus in the new year.”