Covid absences
Jump to main content
Search
shortlist register contact us menu
This is How School Leaders are Dealing with their Omicron Staffing Absences

This is How School Leaders are Dealing with their Omicron Staffing Absences

Date posted : 14 January 2022

For the education sector, January 2022 may go down as one of the most difficult starts to a year in living memory. The Omicron variant – the latest incarnation of the coronavirus that has blighted education since 2020 – is battering schools’ workforce arrangements, with one in 12 teachers absent from English schools during the first week of term.

To fill these gaps and keep their gates open, schools have turned to supply agencies in huge numbers. As the UK’s leading presence in this field, Teaching Personnel is helping more schools than ever before deal with their staffing challenges.   

We wanted to find out about the realities of the situation that Britain’s schools are facing at the start of the spring term. To get the view from the ground, we sat down for a chat with Matt Coleman, Director of School Improvement at Nene Education Trust, a multi academy trust in Northamptonshire.

Nene Education Trust is a network of eight schools in the Wellingborough and East Northamptonshire area, with around 400 permanent members of staff working across these sites. Like many others, these schools have been hit by what Matt calls a “domino effect” of absences.

“The way the virus works is that, if one school gets a case, then it invariably has a domino effect”, Matt explains. Yet the experience has been intriguingly asymmetric across the Nene network. “Right now, at one of our schools, six out 13 teachers aren’t in because they have Covid, whereas other schools aren’t affected at all…yet”.

Even with recent data painting a rosier picture of falling infection rates, Matt does not expect that those currently-lucky schools will be spared the disruption of the Omicron variant. “We know that there are 100,000 cases daily on a national level. We’re nowhere near out of it yet, and in fact it’s still posing a massive challenge to us.”

When the virus comes knocking, Nene’s schools vary their approaches depending on the circumstances. In one early years setting where all the members of staff contracted Covid, a temporary, four-day switch to remote learning was the only option on the table. In less severe circumstances, supply agencies and a bit of strategic work to “rejig staffing within the school” are Matt’s preferred solutions to keep pupils learning face-to-face.

While supply may not suit every circumstance, it has certainly become a much more prominent feature across the Nene network. “I go into budget meetings where head teachers are getting hammered because their supply is way over budget”, Matt laughs.

Yet while each viral wave has resulted in a “clamour” for supply teachers, Matt is conscious of the need to be discerning about which agencies he works with. “The pandemic has benefited those supply agencies that understand their skillset and niche, who can make sure to partner the right person with the right school and get those relationships developing.

The pandemic has given Matt a clearer sense of his longer-term priorities when choosing supply partners. “It shouldn’t just be about convenience anymore. The supply agencies with the right culture and the right people-first approach are the ones which, from my perspective, I’m going to lean towards.”

Matt proposes that, by their nature, Covid staff absences have made it even more important that supply teachers as individuals are aligned with the schools they’re working in. “If you’ve got a Covid absence, then invariably you’ve got at least four or five days where you’ll need cover. So it’s not just someone going in for a day with your bag of tricks, before going onto the next school. You’re probably going to be there a bit longer, so you get a bit more immersed in the culture and values of the school.”

That question of matching values is the foundation of Nene Education Trust’s longstanding partnership with Teaching Personnel. Matt is effusive about that working relationship. “We’ve really benefited from linking up with Teaching Personnel because the values and ethos of the organisation really chime with what we believe across our MAT. There is a human link there”, he tells us.

That link is crucial for the success of our supply operation. In Matt’s telling, “one thing Teaching Personnel do really well is developing an awareness and knowledge of the schools in our organisation, so they can say with authority that this supply teacher will fit that school really well”.

Yet this link also extends well beyond the base-level work of placing candidates to fill gaps in their schools. “For me, the relationship with Teaching Personnel is not just about supply teachers”, Matt avers. “We use Teaching Personnel tutors for the National Tutoring Programme, and I know I can pick [Teaching Personnel’s] brains on things that are happening.”  

We pride ourselves on the many layers of mutual support we invest in with our partners like Nene. Matt has sat on the panels of several of our regular webinars for school leaders on the most relevant issues in education. Similarly, our Business Development Manager, Alison Lincoln, has gone into Nene schools to give career advice and guidance to Year 6 pupils.

As the education sector emerges from Omicron’s acute shocks, schools need partners they can depend on. Teaching Personnel is always on hand to offer senior leaders a full-suite service of staffing, support and advice that engages with schools’ specific needs, values and priorities. All you have to do is get in touch to discuss your specific needs.

List #1

Related posts

Tackling Absenteeism: Turning the Tide with our Attendance Mentors Programme

Teaser

Educators

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD05YY

Summary

Poor attendance has been an issue across the UK since the pandemic. According to recent statistics, pupil absenteeism in England soared to 22% by 2023. This equates to over 125,000 pupils missing

Teaser

Discover how our Attendance Mentors Programme tackles pupil absenteeism in the UK. Learn how tailored support and proven strategies can boost school attendance and academic success.

Read more
Navigating Exam Stress: How to Help Your Learners

Teaser

Tips and Advice

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD05YY

Summary

As the academic year peaks, the pressure of exams can overwhelm pupils. Many teachers believe that tests and exams have the biggest impact on students’ mental health. With GCSEs, SATs, and A-Levels

Teaser

Read more
How to Make Teaching an Attractive Career Choice

Teaser

Tips and Advice

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD04YY

Summary

The teacher recruitment crisis is a priority for school leaders across the country. In the 2021–22 academic year, 4000 teachers retired, and 9% of the teaching workforce resigned, marking the highes

Teaser

Read more
Your Easter 2024 Payroll

Teaser

Educators

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD03YY

Summary

Planning for the Easter break? The Teaching Personnel payroll team wants to make sure you get paid on time. This table outlines the Easter 2024 payroll date, along with the corresponding deadline

Teaser

Read more
Adam Davies

by

Adam Davies

Adam Davies

by

Adam Davies

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Working as a Supply Teacher
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Working as a Supply Teacher

Teaser

Supply Teaching

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD01YY

Summary

Table of Contents 1. Why do people become supply teachers? 2. What does it take to become a supply teacher? 3. How can I find work as a supply teacher? <!-- b--> 4. How shou

Teaser

All your common questions about supply teaching answered

Read more
Alex Schulte

by

Alex Schulte

Alex Schulte

by

Alex Schulte

Navigating the Challenges of SEN Provision: A Call to Action in 2024

Teaser

Educators

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD01YY

Summary

Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision in schools is a critical aspect of education that demands attention in 2024. According to the Department for Education, over 1.5 million pupils in England

Teaser

Dive into the critical world of Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision with eye-opening statistics and real challenges faced by schools. Discover the importance of tailored support and the impact on learners.

Read more
Recruitment and Retention for MAT Leaders

Teaser

Multi-Academy Trusts

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD11YY

Summary

Laura Williams is an education leadership coach with fifteen years of leadership experience in education across business, operations, HR, finance and governance. She is a former Business Manager, CO

Teaser

Read more

by

Scott Owen

by

Scott Owen

Addressing Bullying: Transforming "Banter" into Respectful Dialogue

Teaser

Educators

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD11YY

Summary

Creating a safe and nurturing environment for pupils is paramount in the age of evolving social dynamics. One issue that has gained significant attention in recent years is the distinction between

Teaser

Addressing the fine line between banter and bullying. Learn how seemingly harmless 'banter' can take a dark turn into hurtful bullying and the impact it has on students' well-being.

Read more
Adam Davies

by

Adam Davies

Adam Davies

by

Adam Davies

view of young girl with glasses from behind working on school work
Teaching Personnel and Ark Curriculum Plus Delivering Mathematics Mastery

Teaser

Educators

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD11YY

Summary

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson addressed the Labour Party conference in October, where she announced plans to reform primary maths. Currently, one in four children leave primary school

Teaser

Discover how Teaching Personnel and Ark Curriculum Plus are revolutionizing primary math education in Leeds, Liverpool, Preston, and Sheffield.

Read more
Teacher in shirt and tie supervising students at desks taking exams in a school hall
How to Prepare Pupils for Their Mock Exams: A Guide for Educators

Teaser

Tips and Advice

Content Type

TP-Posts

Publish date

DD10YY

Summary

Mock exams are a crucial milestone in a pupil's academic journey, serving as a practice run for the real deal. As educators, you play a pivotal role in helping pupils navigate through these trial ex

Teaser

Our educator's guide offers tips to prepare students for mock exams, helping them gain confidence and perform well.

Read more
company logo
Search