To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent estimate he has made of the number of teachers and school staff off sick with covid=19 in the last two months for which data is available; what discussions he (a) has had and (b) plans to have with schools leaders on that matter; and what steps he is taking to support schools with staff absences.
It continues to be the department’s absolute priority to support schools to deliver face to face, high quality education. School leaders and staff have worked incredibly hard to make sure pupils have been able to remain in school, while dealing with higher levels of staff absence than normal.
The Education Setting (EdSet) survey asks schools and colleges to report data such as on-site attendance and COVID-19 absence. From 7 March 2022, the survey has changed from daily to weekly. Data will be collected every Thursday and published on a fortnightly basis with the latest publication available here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/attendance-in-education-and-early-years-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak.
From 7 March 2022, the department only collects data on overall absence rather than specific reasons for absence. The proportion of absent teachers and leaders, and other school staff, in the last two months can be found here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/data-tables/permalink/a7b7d917-0f50-4de7-ac15-9d1dd8501107.
The department remains hugely grateful to all school staff for their work, which has consistently kept over 99.9% of schools open this academic year. School leaders are best placed to determine the workforce required to meet the needs of pupils. However, we recognise that absence remains high in some schools and that this poses a challenge for staff.
To support schools experiencing the most significant workforce absence and funding pressures, the department re-introduced the COVID-19 workforce fund in the autumn term. The department had since extended the fund until Easter to cover the cost of term-time absences over a threshold from 22 November 2021 until 8 April 2022.
The department is also supporting staff wellbeing and is funding peer support, individual supervision, and counselling from experts to school leaders through the charity Education Support. Around 2,000 school leaders will benefit until March 2023.
Last November, the department launched the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter, which schools and colleges are encouraged to sign up to, it is co-produced with the education sector as shared commitments from government, Ofsted, and schools and colleges to protect and promote the wellbeing of staff.
The department is also offering state-funded schools and colleges a grant to pay for senior mental health lead training, providing skills and knowledge to implement a ‘whole school or college approach’ to mental health and wellbeing in a setting. This is part of the governments’ commitment to offer this training to all schools and colleges by 2025.