Schools may be forced to suspend key lessons amid Pingdemic staffing crisis as hundreds of pupils already sent home

SCHOOLS could be forced to suspend key lessons amid the Pingdemic staffing crisis as more and more teachers are forced to isolate.

Hundreds of pupils have already been sent home this week due to staff absence – and unions have warned the situation could get even worse.

Head teachers have said areas with higher cases could struggle to find enough supply teachers to cover gaps caused by isolating staff.

It comes after a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.

And in a desperate bid to keep schools open, the head of Ofqual has said teachers may need to suspend specialist subjects to focus on core lessons.

Ian Bauckham, chairman of the exams regulator, said emergency timetables could be put in place to cope with the staffing crisis.

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He told Tes Magazine lessons such as music, religious education and PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) may have to be scrapped to allow teachers to focus on core subjects like maths, science and English.

He added that practical subjects, like design and technology, may need to be taught in bigger classes to help manage numbers.

Secondary school pupils now have to wear facemasks in the classroom, with ministers desperately trying to avoid another home-schooling fiasco.

Boris Johnson has also urged retired teachers to return to work as he vows to keep vital classes going and avoid further scars to children's education.

It's understood schools currently have enough Covid tests to safely reopen, but they could close if the virus wipes out a lot of the workforce.

Some have already reported roughly one in five staff members could be missing at the start of term.

If the priority is to keep children in school we will need innovative approaches to delivery when staffing is critically low.

Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Charitable Trust, which has 52 schools across England, said six staff out of 32 were absent at one school yesterday and another had seven missing out of 35, The Times reports.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “We are hearing from our members that they are finding some pupils are absent and some staff are off sick or isolating.

"It is not a uniform picture, but at the moment school contingency plans are being relied upon to keep the system working."

He added: "It only takes a small increase in staff absence to begin to cause real problems.

"If the priority is to keep children in school we will need innovative approaches to delivery when staffing is critically low.”

Yesterday, Haveley Hey Community School in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, told two Year Six classes to stay home.

Meanwhile, Outwood Academy in Ormesby announced the school was closed from Wednesday to pupils in year nine and ten.

Six out of the seven year groups at Thorpe Primary School, in Bradford, will also not open for the first week of term.

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