There are currently 176 pupils off from States schools with Covid – about 2.5% – but the total absenteeism rate will be higher, as pupils awaiting PCRs and those with colds and flu stay home.
NEU union district secretary Connie Armstrong said class absences were fluctuating, while staff were also being affected.
‘It is fair to say that the majority of our local schools are being affected by this Covid spike,’ she said.
‘There are a significant number of children who are either off with Covid or who are self-isolating because they are waiting for a PCR test or they have got other winter illnesses.
‘We are just pulling out all the stops to keep students in school. But it is taking its toll on the rest of the staff working in schools.’
Director of Education Nick Hynes agreed that staff were stretched and the new Covid wave was presenting real challenges. He thanked staff for their hard work and creative problem-solving to keep schools running. He reminded staff to encourage pupils to wear masks in communal areas. They are not needed in classrooms.
Staff are concerned about low levels of mask wearing by students in secondary schools, and Mrs Armstrong would like to see it become mandatory. With some staff off, their duties need to be covered by those still working.
Mrs Armstrong warned there were not many supply teachers. Education had offered support through officers who were qualified teachers to come into schools.
‘But again there is not a lot of them,’ she said.
In a handful of situations, she said classes had to be split because there was not a teacher available. She questioned the wisdom of school events taking place over the festive period as potential spreader events, in light of Haute Vallee School in Jersey requiring Year 9 students to work from home yesterday.
‘We really don’t want to get to that point,’ said Mrs Armstrong.
‘Do these events really need to happen? To save Christmas, we don’t want families to be affected.’