Primary school tells pupils to stay home due to Covid-related staff shortages


A headteacher has told two year groups not to come to school due to staff shortages caused by coronavirus self-isolation rules.

Parents of pupils in Years 1 and 2 in Gwenfô Church in Wales Primary School in Wenvoe, Vale of Glamorgan, were informed about the decision via an email from the headteacher just before 10am on Tuesday, September 28, that their children would not be able to come to school on Wednesday and Thursday.

The email said that the two classes would be sent home with links for online learning, with teachers able to be contacted via an online chat service during school hours.

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One parent, who wanted to remain anonymous, has criticised the school for sending some of its youngest pupils home this week, as he believes they are unable to work well independently unlike older years.

He thinks the online chat option is inadequate for five to seven-year-olds and claims that the children have already fallen behind academically.

He has also criticised the school for giving parents less than 24 hours’ notice on the decision and believes there should be adequate contingency measures in place for staff shortages.

In the email, the headteacher insisted that the decision was not taken lightly, but the move was necessary after staff numbers had fallen from seven to just two in the classes.

With some part-time staff forced to come into school on today on their day off, she said school staff had been under “increased pressure”, and that current shortages put the health and safety of Year 1 and 2 pupils at risk.

It comes as headteachers described “chaos” in schools as Covid rates rise, citing staff absence, short supply of staff and the “failure” of track and trace as exacerbating the problem.

The disruptions reported include Blackwood Comprehensive School, which closed to year eight and nine students yesterday (September 27) following a rise in Covid cases, while Cradoc Primary in Powys sent all children home last week after almost half the school pupils and staff recorded positive Covid test results.

Meanwhile all year nine pupils at Cwmtawe Community School, in Neath Port Talbot, were told not to come into class last week due to an “unprecedented level of staff absence”. The school in the Swansea Valley has not given an official reason, but the absences were believed to be coronavirus related.

Of Gwenfô Church in Wales Primary School’s decision this week, the anonymous parent said: “We are very frustrated with the school about this.

“These children have fallen way behind academically and it is frustrating that they are once again expected to learn independently without any live teaching other than a chat option.

“It would have made far more sense to send older, more independent pupils home, rather than those aged five to seven.”

He added: “I just can’t understand how the email could be sent out 23 hours before.

“This Thursday I’ve arranged to work from home – this has all been just arranged today, last minute. Obviously it’s caused us some inconvenience

“I can understand that it’s not something they want to be doing, and they don’t want to sending that type of email out, but I honestly feel it could’ve been done better. Were there contingency measures? Did you plan for this?”

A Vale of Glamorgan Council spokesperson said: “Due to a staff shortage caused by Covid self-isolation protocols, Gwenfo Church in Wales Primary School will close for face-to-face teaching for its Year 1 and Year 2 classes on Wednesday and Thursday. Online learning will be available instead.”

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