Back to class mayhem across the UK

Schools across the UK are closing or telling entire year groups to study remotely as some areas have reported as many as one in five teachers calling in sick with Covid.

Meanwhile, heads have warned of chaos after facing delayed deliveries of Covid tests following the return of pupils after Christmas yesterday.

Those pupils who have been allowed to return, but did not bring masks, were segregated and sat at the back of classrooms in some schools yesterday. 

Today, a number of schools have been partially shut due to outbreaks of the virus.

This included King Charles I School in Kidderminster is closed to Years 7 and 8 and Outwood Academy in Ormesby, Middlesbrough warned Years 9 and 10 pupils to stay away. 

Elsewhere, classes for six out of the seven year groups at Thorpe Primary School in Bradford have been shut, while Haveley Hey Community School in Wythenshawe, Manchester, told its two Year 6 classes to stay at home yesterday.

In Scotland today, Kincardine O’Neil School and Wallacestone Primary School in Falkirk are not open to any pupils due to Covid, while Drumblade, Catterline and Kinneff – all in Aberdeenshire – are also shut, but owing to issues with heating and power.

Furthermore, a school in Swansea Valley, Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera, has asked Years 7 and 8 to learn remotely until January 10. 

While in north London, Evelyn Forde, head of Copthall School, said 13 staff were absent and four children tested positive for Covid on-site. She added: ‘Staffing is looking pretty horrendous’.  

Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Charitable Trust, which has 52 schools across England, said early indicators suggested 20 per cent of his staff could be absent.  

Meanwhile, problems with testing were deepened as the Department for Education (DfE) gave schools short of tests a 5pm deadline yesterday to order more or face a two-week wait.

Issues were compounded by staff absences caused by Covid, as Ian Bauckham, the boss of exams regulator Ofqual, said schools could suspend subjects like music to cope with shortages. 

Last night it emerged a secondary school was segregating children who do not wear face masks or fail to test twice a week.

Walton High, an academy in Buckinghamshire, said any pupils exempt from wearing face masks ‘will be seated at the back of classrooms at the furthest point from the teacher’. 

Michelle Currie, executive principal, also told parents that if their child had not yet been vaccinated, this could have ‘consequences’, including that it ‘may limit their career options later in life’, according to The Daily Telegraph.

All secondary pupils are being tested for Covid this week, but for some the lateral flow tests failed to arrive in time.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of heads’ union ASCL, said: ‘It is clearly imperative that schools and colleges have enough test kits to follow the government guidance.’

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