State schools

Disadvantaged state schools in England hardest hit by Covid staff absences, survey finds | Schools

England’s most deprived public schools have been much harder hit by staff absence with Covid, compared to those in better off areas or private schools, a new survey of classroom teachers has found.

the TeacherTapp Daily Online Survey of teachers found that 29% of those who worked in schools with large numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds said that at least one in 10 of their colleagues was absent or isolated with Covid.

The survey carried out on January 7 revealed that almost a third of all teachers said that between 5% and 10% of their colleagues were absent, in primary and secondary schools.

But in schools with more than 10% absent staff, there was a dramatic discrepancy. While 30% of teachers in secondary schools with the highest proportion of students receiving free school meals reported that 10% or more of their colleagues were absent, only 9% of teachers in schools with the fewest students receiving free school meals said the same.

Similarly, while one in four teachers in public schools said they did not have enough staff to cover absences, only 9% of teachers in private schools said the same.

On the upside, 95% of public school teachers reported having enough lateral flow testing supplies for their students.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman and founder of the Sutton Trust, which published the results, said the poorest pupils should not be further disadvantaged as a result of the pandemic, adding: “The most important thing the government must do is to strengthen the resumption of existing education. and ensure that sufficient funds are provided to cover absent staff.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said school staff were working ‘tirelessly’ to ensure classrooms were safe.

“We are supporting schools by encouraging former teachers to return to classrooms and extending the Covid workforce fund to schools facing the greatest staffing and funding pressures,” said the spokesperson.

“We have also asked schools to have contingency plans to maximize attendance and minimize disruption to learning, if they have high staff absence rates, and are working with the sector to share studies of cases of flexible learning models to support the development of these plans. .”

The survey of nearly 6,500 teachers found that in some schools more than a third of students did not have access to much-needed laptops or tablets for remote learning.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it “beyond belief” that students were still without digital devices nearly two years into the pandemic.

“The government made a big fuss about its efforts to provide laptops to schools last year, but it doesn’t seem to have done the job. The use of technology in education has been one of the few positives to come out of the pandemic, but it is of little use if young people cannot access classes while self-isolating,” Barton said. .