Classes in England could be merged if the number of sick school workers rose too high, said the education minister.
Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News, “The priority is to keep schools open. The tests, the human support we put in place and of course the ventilation will make a huge difference for schools this year.
“The most important thing is to keep it open. We monitor employee absenteeism, I just told you we were around 8% last year. If that continues to rise, we’ll look at things like merging classes, teaching in larger numbers. “
Earlier, Mr. Zahawi said he hoped the guidelines on secondary school children wearing masks again in the classroom would not apply “one day longer than necessary”.
He told Times Radio, “It’s really based on a couple of things. One, obviously the UK Health and Safety Authority’s recommendation that Omicron is much more contagious, and if you look at the epidemiological data from SPI-M on that and we did a job in the department late last year, with 123 schools where we Conducted an observational study in which they adhered to the wearing of masks in classrooms.
“It is one of several, in my opinion, really important measures to ensure that education is fully open and that the children are in school and in class.
“What we’re saying is, you see, with Omicron, because it’s so contagious, we want to make sure we give you so many tools that you can make sure that education is open.”
However, he admitted that “it is of course more difficult to deliver education with masks in the classroom”.
He said, “This is an aerosol-borne virus, and if you wear a mask and are asymptomatic, the chances of infecting other people are less.”