Hundreds of school staff across Perth and Kinross have had to self-isolate since schools returned last August, education chiefs have revealed.
At a meeting of Perth and Kinross Council’s lifelong learning committee, councillors were informed that close to 200 members of staff across the region had been told to self isolate since since the start of the school year.
There were just under 70 positive cases of coronavirus among school staff members.
Head of education and learning, Sharon Johnston said: “In Perth and Kinross we have been fairly fortunate in that since we returned to school, we have probably had about 67 staff members who have been tested as positive.
“The impact of that, though, has been that around 200 members of staff, not just teachers, have had to self-isolate for a period of either 10 or 14 days.”
Ms Johnston offered assurances to councillors that more school staff have been recruited to mitigate the impact of the absences due to the pandemic.
In August, the council received more than £800,000 from the Scottish Government to help take on additional teachers and support staff for the 2020-21 school year.
Ms Johnston explained: “We did have additional funding for staffing prior to the most recent announcement, and we have engaged an additional 32 full-time equivalent staff across the local authority.
“That funding was mainly to provide support for loss of learning and to cover absences where there have been positive cases of Covid or for those who have been self-isolating.
“So that staffing has been used to to cover those absences.”
Despite the additional funding, it was revealed the local authority was struggling to recruit staff for certain subjects at secondary school level.
Ms Johnston said: “There have been some issues in relation to accessing supply staff in some secondary subjects.
“There is a shortage of secondary supply teachers and we are conscious of that.
“We have been recruiting on a regular basis all the way through (the pandemic) and we recruited further staff last week, in fact, to make sure we keep that going.”
How many pupils are still in school?
Committee members were also updated on the number of children across across the region who are eligible to attend school in-person during the current period home learning.
Around 1,800 pupils are registered with Perth and Kinross Council for in-school learning, with approximately 1,200 of them attending school each day.
Of these, more than half (58%) are children of key workers, with a further 42% of pupils qualifying as a vulnerable child.
Details were also provided on what level of schooling these children were attending, with the majority of pupils being in an additional needs setting.
Ms Johnston said: “In terms of children and young people by sector, this is estimated to be about 10% of the overall roll in ELC [early learning and childcare] and primary, approximately 4% in secondary and 28% of our specialist provisions.
“Those numbers are changing as the weeks go on. To date, around an additional 430 children are also attending our private nurseries.
“At present the average daily attendance of staff, including teachers, support and administration staff, is approximately 1,000.”
Home learning provisions
Councillors were also updated on home learning provisions, with 500 more digital devices expected to be delivered to pupils by the end of the month.
Ms Johnston added: “We will continue to develop our practice of remote learning based on feedback from parents and from the national review.
“In term of digital access, digital devices had been supplied to families who needed them and all new requests to schools were delivered in time for the commencement of home learning on January 11.
“To date, approximately 750 iPads, 200 laptops, 200 ProBooks and over 130 hotspots have been distributed.
“An additional 150 laptops, 250 iPads and 100 ProBooks have been ordered for distribution and these will be available by the end of January.”