Covid pressure - funding schools - pupils exams GCSEs schools results tables

Cheshire East has contacted Government education chiefs about the growing pressure on schools as teachers continue to pick up Covid from pupils, writes Belinda Ryan.

Director of education Jacky Forster told the council’s children and families committee that Covid was having a bigger impact in primary than secondary schools at present.

“While the rates are higher among our younger people, the majority are still asymptomatic or may be ill for a couple of days but not long-term illnesses, so it’s not having a significant impact on the children,” said Mrs Forster.

But she said it was spreading to teachers and other staff and “that is causing some pressures in a number of our schools”.

She said schools were working with each other to try and overcome the problem but it was “very challenging”.

“We have escalated the staffing issue to the DfE to make sure that they’re absolutely sighted that they know this is a big issue for us in the sector,” said Mrs Forster.

Wybunbury councillor Janet Clowes (Con) said there were particular problems in smaller, rural schools.

“They simply don’t have the numbers of staff to cover each other in quite the same way as some of our larger establishments and certainly my own school is on the cusp, as of Tuesday, as to whether or not next week they will be able to literally man all classes going forward,” she said.

Crewe councillor Laura Smith (Lab), said her own children’s school had had “huge numbers” of pupils off in the last couple of weeks and that teachers had also been affected.

“The thing I’m concerned about is the lack of testing,” she said. “Children then go out into the wider community, elderly relatives etc.

“I’m just wondering if, as a council, we can be making representations about testing because I know, for example, that lots of places now are saying you’re going to have to go out and buy them.

“I think they’re selling for about £9 a packet.

“I wondered if we could make representation to the DfE or government.”

She also said she was ‘huge concerns’ about the SATs exams.

“With primary school children having so much time off it just seems very unfair that they’re having to do these tests,” she said.

Mrs Forster replied: “On the testing, we have already flagged that with the DfE and I’m sure, through our public health and the outbreak board, it is a topic that will continue to be looked at broadly by council.

“In terms of the SATs exams, it’s the same.

“It’s not just the SATs exams, we’re also having a lot of conversations with our high schools about the GCSEs.

“Our professional associations have lobbied the DfE to question, not so much the assessment, but actually the fact that there will be published results this year as well.

“The schools feel very uneasy about that, but the DfE are very clear that will continue, so we are working to make sure our schools and young people are supported appropriately.”

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