UK/ 29 January 2021/ Source/ https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/
By Liam Rice
NEW figures reveal that one in 21 teachers in Oxfordshire was absent because of Covid-19 before Christmas.
The Department for Education (DfE) figures show 74 teachers and school leaders in the county were absent with either a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus on December 17.
A further 155 were forced to isolate.
This means 229 teachers were off for Covid-related reasons on just one day – 4.8 per cent of all teachers in schools that remained open.
This was up from three per cent on the same day the week before, and 1.4 per cent on October 15, the first date the survey was conducted.
That 4.8 per cent figure was more than the England number, with 4.4 per cent of teachers and school leaders absent across the country.
The numbers varied massively throughout England, with the London borough of Havering as high as 17.9 per cent, while Torbay in Devon saw just 0.5 per cent of teachers absent.
It is not known how many teachers in schools that had closed and moved to online-only lessons had coronavirus at the time, so the figures are likely to be under-estimates.
The DfE figures also show 251 (3.9 per cent) teaching assistants and other school staff in Oxfordshire were absent for coronavirus-related reasons on December 17.
Of them, 43 had either a suspected or confirmed case of the disease, and 208 were isolating.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The level of staff absence as a result of coronavirus is obviously affected by local infection rates, and the turbulence of the past few months has put schools under enormous pressure.
“It shows why it is important that the Government prioritises education staff in phase two of the rollout of the coronavirus vaccination programme.
“This will provide reassurance to staff and it will minimise further disruption when schools are fully open again.”
Pupils in schools and colleges – except children of key workers and vulnerable pupils – had been told to learn remotely until mid-February, amid the lockdown.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs this week this would now not be possible.
Mr Johnson now hopes it will be safe to begin the reopening of England’s schools from March 8.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries suggested that a regional approach may be taken when schools do reopen.
When asked by the House of Commons’ Education Select Committee whether there could be a regional or phased reopening, Dr Harries said: “I think it’s likely that we will have some sort of regional separation of interventions.”
A DfE spokeswoman said the Government will keep plans for the return to school under review, but will work to reopen them as soon as possible