Covid-related staff absences are pushing schools 'to the limit'

Covid-related staff absences pushing schools “to the limit” could mean not all classes and year groups can continue, councillors heard.

Schools are “clinging on” and struggling to stay open, said Durham County Council’s head of education and skills Jim Murray.

He told a council meeting on Friday: “Fingers crossed we won’t go back to remote learning.

“But I do foresee a situation, maybe as early as next week, where schools won’t because of their staffing situation be able to accommodate all year groups or all classes.

Durham County Hall. Picture by FRANK REID

“I think we’re really pushed to the limit at the minute.

“I think just before Christmas we had one school closed one day, of the 266 schools that we have, which was a pretty good effort really to maintain that through to Christmas.”

On the quality of remote learning, he said: “There is a huge variation across that number of schools.

“I do think our schools have embraced this really well.

“At our top end I would say that if a year group went home on Monday, for example, in some of our schools the children who were at home will be able to watch the lessons that are conducted in the school with the other children at that time.

“And I think the number of schools that we’ve got with that level of ability has increased significantly over time.

“Having said that, that ignores some of the challenges that we have over things like broadband, connectivity, wifi that you might have in the Dales, not to mention storms.”