ASCL comment on Sutton Trust report on the impact of school staff absence

14/01/2022
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on research from the Sutton Trust conducted with Teacher Tapp revealing that state schools are being more heavily impacted by Covid-related staff absences than private schools.
 
Commenting on research from the Sutton Trust conducted with Teacher Tapp revealing that state schools are being more heavily impacted by Covid-related staff absences than private schools, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
 
“This informative report from the Sutton Trust throws the spotlight on some of the practical issues schools are facing at the start of what is already another term laden with challenge and disruption.
 
“It is understandable that disruption caused by staff absence is lower in independent schools as they often have smaller class sizes and this is likely to reduce the risk of transmission to other pupils and staff, whilst state schools serving the most disadvantaged communities tend to be located in urban areas where infection rates are often higher.
 
“The Omicron surge means that many schools are dealing with very high levels of staff absence and this means having to take steps which are clearly not ideal, such as support staff covering lessons and combined classes. However, we would emphasise that schools are doing everything possible to minimise the impact on their pupils.

“It is very frustrating to see that staff have been unable to come into school because of lack of access to Covid tests and it is essential that the government ensures that there are adequate supplies of tests available.
 
“It also beggars belief that almost two years on from the first lockdown there are still many schools, most notably those in areas of deprivation, that do not have access to the devices their students need to be able to study at home. The government made great play of its efforts to provide laptops to schools last year but it seems it did not see the job through. The use of technology in education has been one of the few positives to come from the pandemic but it is of little use if young people cannot access lessons when they are self-isolating.
 
“This report provides further evidence that the impact of the pandemic follows socio-economic lines, with those most severely impacted being disadvantaged young people.
 
“The government needs to urgently address the serious issues raised by the Sutton Trust. It must provide more financial assistance to schools and colleges facing massive costs for bringing in supply cover for absent staff, and it must also address the longer-term effects of the Covid crisis and significantly increase its investment in education recovery.”