Teachers prepared if Omicron pushes learning online

Teachers are “well prepared” to move to online learning if the rapid spread of the new variant of COVID-19 forces schools to close, Essex County Council has said.

The county council has said it is closely monitoring the rapid surge of the Omicron variant, but that “schools are well prepared for the move to online learning should the worst happen and this be absolutely necessary”.

The advice comes after a letter from the authority, dated December 6, reminds parents and children to test regularly throughout the holidays and all secondary school pupils will be tested for COVID on site prior to starting back at school in January. This may affect the start of term date.

In England, the latest figures show that 236,000 state-school pupils representing 2.9 per cent of the total were absent due to COVID on December 9, up from 2.6 per cent on November 25.

Some 3,000 pupils were out of school as a result of school closures.

The county council has added that the situation will be closely monitored over the Christmas holidays.

The county council said in the letter: “With social mixing during the holiday period, it is vital that we support a successful start to the new term.

“Secondary schools have also been asked to offer an on-site test to children before they can start their education in January.

“Schools will let you know their approach to this but may stagger their start dates for the beginning of the new term.

“We appreciate that the changes in guidance can cause anxiety for some but it is important that the education of our children is prioritised this academic year.

“The likelihood of serious illness in children is extremely low and after many months of serious disruption, the DfE and the Local Authority continue to be committed to ensuring that all children and young people in Essex have every opportunity to thrive.”

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “Schools across Essex have continued to deliver online learning throughout the autumn term for children who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are therefore unable to attend school.

“Schools are well prepared for the move to online learning should the worst happen and this be absolutely necessary.

“All secondary school pupils will be tested for COVID-19 on site prior to starting back at school in January and we are encouraging all households to continue to test regularly, both during the Christmas holidays and prior to the start of the new term.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter