Back to work: how is Lancashire coping with the staff shortages caused by Covid?

Rising Coronavirus cases are already having an effect on Lancashire's services.

By Aimee Seddon
Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 5:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 5:46 pm

Schools, businesses and councils across Lancashire are bracing themselves for staff shortages as cases of the Covid variant continue to surge.

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Parklands High School in Chorley starts its term today with a return to blended learning because of the number of teachers off self-isolating with Omicron.

Covid is on the rise as Lancashire pupils return to school and adults return to work.

And although Parklands is the only school in the Preston and Chorley area to announce a return to blended learning, staff shortages across the board mean that schools are bracing for situations to change in the forthcoming months.

Another Chorley High School, Albany Academy, confirmed it is also feeling the effects of staff shortages, and although they are coping at the moment without any closures, it is a situation that they will have to keep an eye on.

The headteacher, Peter Mayland said: “We’ve had staff test positive over the Christmas period so we do have staff absences currently, now last term we just about managed this through supply cover but they are of short supply, so we are currently planning on what to do in the event of having to close a year group.

"The difficulty is that high quality online education is only really manageable if you have a teacher connecting to the children online but if you’ve got a teacher off sick, they can’t do that, and if you can’t get a supply in, they can’t do that either, you can't have teachers teaching a face to face class and online class simultaneously, so it sounds like a possible solution but it won’t necessarily solve the problem if we have a large number of our staff absent. It’s not a problem yet, but we will have plans in place if it is.”

Peter Mayland from Albany Academy believes more drastic plans will need to be put in place if teacher shortages worsen.

Whilst Lancashire students may be affected by teaching shortages, the Commercial Manager for Preston Bus, Thomas Calderbank, confirmed that school bus services are at least operating as normal, despite the staffing shortages they are facing.

Thomas told the Post: "At the moment we are coping but it is a challenge. Fortunately a number of our drivers are working overtime and covering additional journeys, which we are very grateful for. There are some journeys not operating, however we are making sure that only our high frequency services are affected so customers won’t have long to wait for the next bus."

Meanwhile , both Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council confirmed that they too are being affected by staff shortages, but again the situation is manageable for now.

Thomas Calderbank from Preston Bus says that staff shortages have caused minimal disruption so far.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: "Due to the high levels of infection currently in Lancashire, the county council like many other employers is being impacted by staff absences.

"Many of our services are stretched, especially in our care sector which is under intense pressure due to increased demand coinciding with high numbers of staff self-isolating, but for now we are managing.

"We are monitoring the situation closely and will always prioritise support for our vulnerable residents.

"We will continue to review our business continuity plans and it is essential that everybody gets vaccinated and takes precautions to mitigate the impact on critical services."

Councillor Martyn Rawlinson, Cabinet Member for Resources at Preston City Council said: “A higher number of employee self-isolation reports have been received recently at Preston City Council, due to staff testing positive for COVID. At the moment, this is not causing a critical incident of employee shortages as many of the staff are due to end their isolation shortly or can work from home.

"The situation will be closely monitored over the next few weeks, to ensure all council services can continue to operate as normal.”