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School Staff Absences

Volume 708: debated on Monday 31 January 2022

16. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of Government support to help tackle staff absences in schools. (905342)

The Department has extended the covid workforce fund to at least the February half-term, so that schools with high absence and financial pressures can continue to access these additional funds. Other measures include asking former teachers to come forward if they are available to temporarily fill absences in schools during the spring term.

On 20 January, more than 415,000 pupils were off school and 15% of teachers were absent, but only 9,000 air purifiers have been promised, for approximately 300,000 classrooms. The Minister lauds the Government response, yet Germany has promised to subsidise 80% of the cost of air cleaning equipment in all schools to ensure that education is not disrupted. Why is he failing to ensure that our pupils have similar levels of protection?

Very simply, because we are taking an evidence-based approach. We have listened to schools and we sent them the carbon dioxide monitors so that they can monitor where classrooms need the extra support. About 3% of classrooms needed that extra support and they are the ones where the devices are being provided entirely funded by the Department.