A Blackpool nursery was forced to close for the week amid an ongoing staff crisis in schools.
The latest data shows 8.6% of teachers and school leaders were absent - and 4.9% were absent because of Covid, up from 3% on 16 December 2021.
Revoe Learning Academy opened for spring term on the fourth of January 2022. Staff absences due to Covid led to nursery staff being redeployed to cover classes in other parts of the school. 16 staff were absent on Monday; 15 were Covid related.
Headteacher, Dayle Harrison, decided to close the nursery for the week beginning 10 January so that other classes could remain open.
Mr Harrison said: “We had to prioritize to ensure safe provision. We made the decision to deploy staff that are healthy and fit for work to enable us to stay open for statutory age children.”
Schools across England have been reporting teaching-staff absences of more than 20% and the government itself is planning for 25% staff-absence rates.
Rates of teacher absence were slightly higher in primary schools than in secondaries, where face masks are now required for pupils in class.
The education secretary says he's making contingency plans as schools struggle with staff absence.
Revoe nursery is set to reopen on Monday 17th January 2022, but Mr Harrison said it’s impossible to plan as Omicron is transmitting so rapidly.
“We have staff due to return this Friday, but we’re juggling it every day. As soon as one teacher comes back, another goes off.”
He said that closing for the week was fairer to parents, as it allowed them to make short term plans while the nursery is closed.
Laura Potts had considered keeping daughter Lily at their home on Caunce Street as she saw Omicron cases rise over Christmas. But she sent her back to Revoe nursery when term started.
She said Lily misses the routine and is eager to go back and see her friends.
“The school is trying their best to control the spread, and keep as many kids in class as they can.”
She said the same thing happened when the school reopened in September 2021 and had to close due to staffing levels.
“The nursery is a breeding ground for illnesses. I sometimes notice a break where they don't get ill because they are not picking up bugs from school but as soon as they go back infection rates blow up again.”
National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Paul Whiteman said staff absence in the first week of term was significant and likely to worsen.
"While schools will do everything they can to manage the situation, there is a reality that needs to be acknowledged here."The staff absences will have a serious impact on schools' ability to remain open, particularly in primaries, where there is usually one teacher per class.