Kids could return to homeschooling after Covid ravages teaching staff causing mass shortages

SCHOOLKIDS could return to homeschooling as Covid ravages teaching staff causing mass shortages across the education sector.

Ministers are reportedly struggling with how to keep schools open after the Christmas break as case rates continue to soar across the UK.

They fear reinstating online learning could be the only option after a crippling number of Covid-related absences hit the teaching workforce as children prepare to return to classrooms.

Concerns are growing they may have to resort to the back up plan as headteachers warned staffing levels will be "very challenging" when the new term starts.

Other options include multiple classes being brought together in larger halls to ease the strain on struggling schools.

Experts have urged Boris Johnson to slash isolation for those who test positive down to five days in a bid to secure teachers behind desks.

The PM has been told to do all he can so that students don’t miss any more vital face-to-face learning due to staff isolating at home.

Calls to cut isolation follow a string of hugely positive studies which showed 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.

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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.

They are now said to be weighing up a number of plans to ensure kids across the country face as little disruption as possible to their education.

One Whitehall source told the Mirror: "We are just being practical.

"It is very likely that some schools could have teachers off isolating so we are trying to figure out the best way to keep children in schools.

"If all of those aren't possible, then some year groups or classes may have to go online but we are hoping this will be for literally only days."

Some primary and secondary schools have already sent kids home armed with textbooks and laptops just in case poor staffing levels force them into a self-prescribed shutdown.

But Mr Johnson is fighting to keep schools open in England and declared children's uninterrupted education a national priority.

The PM has rallied retired teachers to the classroom to fill the shortage caused by Omicron infections in an effort to keep face-to-face learning alive.

'NUMBER ONE PRIORITY'

But the Government announced a further 7,000 air cleaning units will be rolled out to classrooms across the country to avoid closures.

Pupils in secondary school in England will also return to wearing masks in the classroom to keep infections at bay.

As well as this 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 Nadhim Zahawi secured millions of kits.

He said the classroom "is undoubtedly the very best place for children" and told of his hope for their steady return this week.

"There is no doubt that the Omicron variant presents challenges but the entire education sector has responded with a Herculean effort, and for that I thank each and every one of you," he continued.

"The Prime Minister and I have been clear that education is our number one priority.

"These measures will bolster our support schools as we do everything in our power to minimise disruption."

It comes after First Minister Mark Drakeford warned pupils in Wales could be forced to return to lessons online again if teacher absences cause a staffing crisis.

He told WalesOnline: "We recognise that there will be some schools where, because Omicron is so transmissible, there will be staff who will be ill so it won't be possible for every child to be in the classroom and therefore that a return for some students for a shorter period of time as possible to online learning may have to be there as well."

The warning is a hammer blow to parents who'll be forced to arrange last-minute child care – and kids who've already forgone hours of in-person teaching.

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