Omicron: 1 in 25 college teachers and leaders off with Covid as absence rate doubles

It comes as 300,000 students studying vocational and technical qualifications get ready to sit exams this month

It comes as 300,000 students studying vocational and technical qualifications get ready to sit exams this month

11 Jan 2022, 15:29

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The proportion of college leaders, teachers, and support staff absent from work due to Covid-related reasons has doubled in just three weeks.

The Department for Education’s latest attendance survey data, published today, estimates that one in 25, or 4 per cent, of FE college teachers and leaders were off on January 6 due to coronavirus. The figure for support and other staff in colleges sat at 3.4 per cent.

This is up from 1.6 per cent of teachers and leaders and 1.2 per cent of other staff on December 15, increases of 150 per cent and 183 per cent respectively.

Special post-16 providers have seen an even bigger hike in staff absence over the same period.

The DfE said 7.4 per cent of teachers and leaders were absent due to Covid-19 reasons in these institutions on January 5, up from 2.1 per cent on 15 Dec. And 6.2 per cent of teaching assistants and other staff were off work in special post-16 institutions due to the virus, up from 2 per cent over the same period.

It comes after the education secretary Nadhim Zahawi warned staff absences were likely to rise as the impact of the Omicron variant is felt in education settings.

Geoff Barton, leader of the Association of School and College Leaders, said “any hope” the Christmas holidays would act as a firebreak for schools and colleges “have evaporated”.

“The challenges posed by having so many staff absent will continue to put schools and colleges under severe pressure.”

Colleges will be facing particular problems owing to staff absences this month as around 300,000 students studying vocational and technical qualifications will be taking exams.

The DfE did not publish staff attendance data for colleges this time last year so comparison of absence levels in the same period in 2021 is not possible.

Absence rates for independent training providers are not published by the DfE.

Education staff among those most likely to report long Covid 

Today’s statistics on workforce absence comes after the Office for National Statistics reported that the education sector had seen the biggest month-by-month increase in the proportion of people reporting that they were suffering the effects of long Covid.

Along with health and social care, teaching and education had the greatest prevalence of reports of long Covid. Women, those aged 35 to 69 and those living in more deprived areas were also more likely to report issues.