Long Covid Shake-up as Teacher Cases Rise


Education secretary to issue new guidance on long Covid, as unions say teachers should get up to 12 months of full-paid leave if diagnosed with the condition.

Nadhim Zahawi's has asked officials to draw up new guidance on long Covid for schools as cases continue to rise among teachers and support staff. This request comes as Department for Education research suggests that more than a third of secondary schools are reporting workforce challenges due to long Covid. It also comes as teaching unions unveil a new joint protocol, which calls for staff who have been medically diagnosed with long Covid to be given up to 12 months of full-paid leave.

Mr Zahawi and unions are acting against a backdrop of rising concern from scientists that the continued rise in teachers suffering from long Covid is "eroding" the workforce and will have "devastating consequences".

An investigation by Tes in February, found that a lack of guidance for schools on how to approach long Covid was compounding problems for leaders and staff, who also faced scepticism about the condition and a lack of legal and medical advice. Now Tes has learned that the DfE is preparing guidance on the condition for schools, in a move being welcomed by education unions.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said any guidance needs to come "as soon as possible" as school staff and leaders are "experiencing the impact of long Covid right now". She hoped any guidance or research would "show an understanding of the scale of the issue" as well as the "impact on staff and pupils, and how best to support them if they are suffering from the effects of long Covid".

Ms McCulloch also highlighted the potential need for "additional funding" to help to pay for supply cover where schools are "struggling to fill the gaps". Meanwhile, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said government guidance on long Covid in the education sector would be a "welcome step" but was something that should have begun "months ago". He hoped the guidance would look at the symptoms of long Covid, the need for fair treatment and the high prevalence in the sector due to the "greater risks of catching Covid in school".

By Matilda Martin for www.tes.com

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