Schools in England have been ordered to take urgent action from today as children return from Christmas break amid rising Covid cases.
Students in secondary schools in England will be encouraged to wear masks in both classrooms and corridors starting today.
And the education minister said schools should be prepared to put classes into large groups if the staffing level gets too low.
Another 157,758 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases were registered in England and Scotland at 9 a.m. on Monday, the government said.
Scotland recorded the highest number of daily cases to date, while no numbers were reported for Wales and Northern Ireland on Monday night.
The government also announced that an additional 42 people had died in England within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.
Separate figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the UK has now registered 174,000 deaths with Covid-19 mentioned on death certificates.
During a visit to a vaccination center on Monday, the Prime Minister said he appreciated the pressure on staff and that it was “important that we make sure we are helping them by trying to contain the pandemic” by getting vaccinated and making a plan B follow dimensions.
The return of masks in the classrooms has been recommended for secondary school students in England in addition to testing twice a week.
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said, “What we are saying is, you see, with Omicron, because it’s so contagious, we want to make sure we provide you with 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.”
Mr Johnson admitted he was not happy with the plans but said they were necessary for now.
It is hoped that the masks return may prevent the need to further disrupt children’s education.
Mr. Zahawi said, “The most important thing is to keep them (schools) open.
“We monitor employee absenteeism, I just told you that we were around 8% last year. If that continues to rise, we’ll look at things like merging classes, teaching in larger numbers. “
School principals have warned that new school staffing shortages from isolating teachers from positive lateral flow tests could become “challenging” for some schools and lead to more students studying online.
Caroline Derbyshire, director of Saffron Walden County High School in Essex and director of the Saffron Academy Trust, told PA News Agency, “We know (staff shortages) will be a factor and there will be schools in certain parts of the country where the rates are extreme were high where staffing will be difficult.
“But such a mass of tutors who should be there – that didn’t happen, so if we have bottlenecks, it will be the colleagues who are in the school who take on most of the substitution.”
She said the idea of merging classes, as suggested by Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi in the event of bottlenecks, had already been implemented by the schools “the whole semester in the last semester”, but it was “not a long-term solution”.
She said that a staff shortage would “absolutely” make distance learning more likely, adding, “When you get to a point with staff shortages in a large school, speak of maybe 10 staff who are free.
“You suddenly have the inability to lead a grade – then either grades or entire sections of schools have to go online and some at home.”
She said this was “a feature of this half year that we have to face, I don’t think anyone is looking forward to it”.
Mr Zahawi outlined new Covid measures for schools on Sunday and said he wanted to offer “reassurance” before the start of the semester.
Masks have been reintroduced in secondary school classes, while all secondary schools have been asked to conduct on-site tests for students before returning to the classroom, and an additional 7,000 air purification units are being deployed at schools, colleges and kindergartens to improve ventilation in classrooms .
Mr. Zahawi told Sky News Monday that “keeping schools open is a priority,” and the Department of Education has suggested that schools merge classes to maintain classroom teaching.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told PA that school principals responded to the reintroduction of face coverings for an initial two-week period with “kind of tired, pragmatic acceptance,” if that’s what we do need to do to try to reduce the transmission then we will “.
He added, “I think most people will hope that this is a price worth keeping more young people in school, but in the end it will depend on whether we have enough staff when school starts tomorrow. “
Mr Barton said the staff did lateral flow tests over the weekend so some would be waiting for PCR confirmation who would not be able to teach face-to-face.
“It’s hard to imagine that when the NHS is affected, retail is affected, when sporting events are affected, it’s hard to understand why you don’t have the same staffing problems in schools and colleges,” he said.
“But the difficulty is … heads will be able tomorrow, especially secondary heads … they will first try to logistically set up the lateral flow test systems so that all young people are tested, and at the same time they may be at 8 o’clock Got a call from their curriculum officer saying, ‘We actually have 10 employees today and the delivery agency says they don’t have enough people.’ “
He said that Tuesday, with many students returning, would prove “challenging” for some schools, but “you just can’t predict where they might be or what it might look like”.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT school directors’ union, said schools “are under control of the additional measures announced over the weekend” by arranging tests for students and informing parents and carers of the new face covering rules.
“They hope the extra measures will be enough to minimize the disruption to education this season, but only the next few weeks will show how effective they really are,” he said.
“The biggest concern is staffing. Teachers and school staff will test and report their results at the beginning of this week and only then do the school administrators know who they have available and can plan properly.
“The school administrators will do everything possible to ensure their students a smooth return and a successful semester, but depending on the development of the infection rates, it could be another stressful time.”
Alderman Phelim MacCafferty, Chairman of Brighton & Hove City Council, posted an open letter to Mr Zahawi on Twitter saying it will be “another school year that we fear will be filled with illness and disorder as we try to maintain our children’s education “. walk during this new wave of pandemic ”.
He said the education ministry’s announcement of 7,000 air purification units for schools, colleges and kindergartens on Sunday was “although welcome, but is far below the required number and will still leave most schools without it.”
He added that the council would like to recommend face covering for older elementary school students as well, while close contacts “should be required to isolate them until they can show a negative PCR test”.
“The educational disruptions it will cause will be less than those caused by this highly transferable variant becoming established in our school communities,” he said.
Plan B’s measures to fight the coronavirus are due to be reviewed when MPs return to parliament on Wednesday.