Schools in chaos as parents warned entire years will be sent home – online teaching looms

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Headteachers told the Prime Minister that some year groups may return to online teaching, prioritising pupils in key stages of learning for in-person learning. It is understood that schools across the country are preparing to teach entire year groups remotely after the spread of the Omicron variant has seen swathes of staff fall ill or self-isolate in the run-up to Christmas.

Concerns were also raised about how to keep in-classroom teaching going with the sheer number of teachers who will be forced to isolate after returning a positive COVID-19 test.

Rural primary schools are believed to be most at risk of critical staff shortages because of smaller staff numbers.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “If you have a fixed pool available of those who can teach young people, then the only final resort schools and colleges have is to start thinking about the certain year groups that should be prioritised in the short term.”

He told The Telegraph that headteachers were “hoping for the best but planning for the worst”.

In-person teaching in schools was switched to online learning from March until September 2020, and made a return once again at the start of 2021.

Boris Johnson has told education secretary Nadhim Zahawi that he is “absolutely determined” to keep schools open in January despite the wildfire spread of the Omicron variant, the Times reported.

The Government has, however, said that disruption is likely for schools at least until the Easter period.

They have also urged retired teaching staff to take up the mantle once again and return to their former workplaces to fill in the gaps for absent teachers.

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He said: “We feel we owe it to the young people doing GCSEs and A-levels because we already know their time is being disrupted and want to make it as normal as they can be.”

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP and chairman of the education select committee, told The Telegraph: “I’m concerned that even if the Government says they want to keep schools open, schools will continue to send hundreds of thousands of children home.

“If schools are closing or sending lots of children home, they should set up task forces with the schools to work with them to keep them open.

“They can’t just say this – they’ve got to mean it.”

The Prime Minister is meeting with his top advisers, including Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, on Monday morning after saying he would wait for further data on the Omicron variant before choosing whether or not to impose new restrictions in England.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “We know children and young people want to be in the classroom and it is the very best place for their education and wellbeing, which is why protecting face-to-face education continues to be an absolute priority.”

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