Health

Omicron hits schools as teacher and pupil absences surge


Covid-related pupil and teacher absences are soaring in a fresh sign that the Omicron variant is running rampant through Scottish schools.

It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon rejected calls to close campuses early as the new strain takes hold.

According to data, the number of children and young people not in school for reasons connected with Covid-19 jumped from 19,402 to 31,303 between December 10 and Tuesday this week.

Statistics show the surge has been fuelled by self-isolation requirements. However, they also reveal many parents are choosing to keep children away from school as a precautionary measure. The number of pupils affected under this measure increased from 986 on December 10 to 3,755 on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon to give update today as new restrictions introduced

The overall figure for learners not in classrooms due to Covid-related sickness, self-isolation, parental choice or campus closures is now at its highest since September 10.   

Statistics confirm a similar situation among school staff. They show the number of teachers absent with confirmed Covid or its symptoms, or absent because they were self-isolating, isolating due to instructions from contact tracers, shielding, quarantining or looking after someone with the illness, hit 2,048 on Tuesday. The total is up more than 500 on December 7 and is the highest since the start of the current school session in August.

As well as sparking fresh safety concerns, high absence rates, if they persist into the early part of next year, will fuel concern over plans to hold exams.

HeraldScotland: New figures show a sharp rise in Covid-related pupil absences in the days leading up to December 14.New figures show a sharp rise in Covid-related pupil absences in the days leading up to December 14.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), schools, colleges and training providers are currently preparing for the 2022 diet with significant modifications to course assessments.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon confirms Omicron now dominant strain

SQA bosses have also said that, in the event of a major new hit to teaching and learning, it will provide additional support to help candidates prepare and revise. They indicated previously that this could include giving pupils advance sight of topics or areas that will be assessed and allowing them to take support material, such as formula sheets, into the exam hall.

If ministers cancel exams due to public health restrictions, the information obtained through normal in-year assessment to determine learner estimates can be used when deciding provisional results.

HeraldScotland: Covid-related teacher absences are also increasing.Covid-related teacher absences are also increasing.

However, continued high rates of pupil and staff absence due to Covid could significantly disrupt school activity during the crucial December to March period. This is when pupils typically sit prelims and begin undertaking the in-depth preparation needed for top exam grades.





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