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'Risk of closure': Staff shortages at city schools after festive break

Schools across the country, including Peterborough are raising concerns of staff shortages, fearing the situation could worsen in the new term and cause further disruption to children’s education. 
Staff shortages looms over schools post festive-break (Picture: PA Media)

Earlier this week, the Secretary of State for Education said face-to-face teaching will continue and remain “the norm” as he outlined a series of Covid measures for schools. 

Nadhim Zahawi said secondary pupils will have to wear masks in classrooms and be able to access on-site coronavirus tests at school. A further 7,000 air purifiers are promised, to add to the 1,000 already announced, alongside 350,000 CO2 monitors. 

Meanwhile, 12 to 15-year-olds are being encouraged to get fully vaccinated with two jabs and 16 and 17-year-old are now eligible for a booster dose. 

Mr Zahawi outlined the battery of measures in a Twitter thread on Sunday, saying he wanted to offer “reassurance” before the start of term. But concerns over staff shortages in school continue as new term resumes. 

In Peterborough, most of the schools if not all of them have resumed classes post the festive break this week. 

Education union leaders warned of a “stressful time” ahead as existing teacher absences on the first day of term could become even more “challenging” in the weeks ahead. 

Some schools are reporting that around one in five staff members could be missing at the start of term. 

The chair of Ofqual has suggested that schools may need to suspend “specialist” subjects – like music – to cope with staff absences this term. 

Jonathon Lewis, director of education for Peterborough said: "As with our colleagues across England we want schools to be open and to ensure staff and the communities they are in to remain safe.  

"The biggest challenge we are all facing, nationally and locally, in achieving this is the lack of teachers. 

"There is a clear risk of closure due to teacher shortages.  We have prepared for this and Headteachers have done a magnificent job in building up a portfolio of people who can support them when staff become ill. 

"We are starting a programme of testing all secondary school pupils from today, this is in order to pick up on the virus early and to help us keep the schools open." 

Mr Zahawi has called on former and retired teachers to return to the classroom as part of the Government’s efforts to tackle staff shortages. 

But Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Charitable Trust, which has 52 schools across England said even if as many as 30,000 were recruited, it may only be a “drop in the bucket”. 

He added that schools had already been “hammered” over the last six terms with supply teacher costs. 

He said: “Schools are desperate for support and it’s great that there’s this call for retired teachers, but a commitment to fund supply teachers would be hugely beneficial.”