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Ex-teachers are being asked to come back to classrooms in January to help Covid absences expected to be caused by Omicron



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Ex-teachers are being asked to return to the classroom next term to help cover Covid absences schools are expected to face in large numbers come January.

The fast spreading Omicron variant is expected to cause increased staff absences when schools go back next month and the government says some areas may struggle to find sufficient numbers of supply teachers unless former staff come forward.

Former teachers are being asked to consider a return to the classroom
Former teachers are being asked to consider a return to the classroom

The government is asking former teachers who have the skills and time to return to the classroom to sign up from today to help protect 'face-to-face' learning.

This, says the Department for Education, would give officials time to carry out the comprehensive checks required for those working with children and get a potentially bolstered workforce ready to be called on from January.

Those who are recently retired or who trained as a teacher and then switched career are among those ministers are asking for.

Even adults who may only be able to find one day a week in the upcoming spring term to help are being asked to consider signing-up to help keep pupils in school in the face of widespread and rising Covid numbers.

Nadhim Zahawi
Nadhim Zahawi

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."

Ahead of the new term the Government says it is is providing support to schools and colleges, trusts, local authorities, teaching unions, supply teacher agencies, and sector organisations such as Teach First to help them reach those who are most likely to be able to answer the Education Secretary’s call to return to the fronts of classes.

Department for Education staff eligible to also come forward are also going to be released from their current positions to do so providing they are not currently working on the department's existing Covid response.

The Disclosure and Barring Service - responsible or carrying out checks on those working with children says it is prepared for an increase in the need for its service and turns around 80% of enhanced checks within 14 days, with 30% of those within a day.

The government is trying to recruit former teachers as part of efforts to keep schools open next term
The government is trying to recruit former teachers as part of efforts to keep schools open next term

The Government is also working with Teach First to explore how those who came through the organisation, but currently do a different job elsewhere, could make a temporary return to the classroom.

Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First 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. Yet the disruption to school life and extended periods at home mean pupils’ education has inevitably suffered, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"Given the challenges that schools now face, we want to see what more can be done to help – including how we, and those of our alumni who have trained as teachers but currently work outside the profession, may be able to support schools to remain open safely in the new year."