Ex-teachers encouraged to return amid Omicron spread

The Government is encouraging former teachers to return to the classroom as teacher absences rise

The Government is encouraging former teachers to return to the classroom in an attempt to save face-to-face teaching.

As teacher absences increase due to the Omicron coronavirus variant, some schools have been left struggling with a limited amount of supply teachers.

From 20 December, ex-teachers can sign up to support schools and colleges in the new year. Everyone who applies will be subject to rigorous checks before joining, so former teachers are encouraged to sign up before Christmas to begin work in the new year. 

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Although 99.9% of schools have consistently been open this term, with cases of Omicron increasing we must make sure schools and colleges have the teachers available to remain open for face-to-face education.”

Even retired teachers and those who have changed professions are being encouraged to teach for as little as one day a week.

The Government will target ex-teachers through several channels, and provide communications support to a variety of bodies in the sector including schools, colleges, teaching unions and supply teacher agencies to ensure a large cohort are recruited.

With cases of Omicron increasing we must make sure schools and colleges have the teachers available to remain open for face-to-face education – Nadhim Zahawi, Department for Education

Staff currently working for the Department for Education are eligible to sign up, as long as they are not working on the department’s Covid response.

Teach First is exploring how it can engage with its alumni, who may be working outside of the profession, and motivate them to return to the classroom temporarily. 

Russell First, CEO of Teach First, said: “Teachers have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic, doing an inspirational job to support their pupils and communities in the face of adversity. 

“Yet the disruption to school life and extended periods at home mean pupils’ education has inevitably suffered, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Former teachers are encouraged to sign up to supply teacher agencies on the Government’s Get Into Teaching website. The Disclosure and Barring Service has acknowledged the potential for a spike in the demand for their services.

The Government has pressed that it is necessary for everyone to get their booster jabs, to reduce the likelihood of teacher absences in the new year.

You might also like: Schools must remain open ‘to protect children’s wellbeing’, says school founder

1 Comment
  • Helen Leon

    I see the BBC have asked retired teachers to comment on this idea, so I have done.
    Hi there –
    I would really like to say how I feel about this.
    I taught English for 25 years and I loved my job. I loved the kids I taught. I was rated as an outstanding teacher by Ofsted, and steadily had excellent exam results. Last March 16th 2020, I stayed late after school to go over literature texts with some wobbly GCSE students. I’d brought in doughnuts and we had a very happy time together . I didn’t know then it was the last time I would ever teach any kind of lesson.
    By the Friday we were being advised to work from home if we were vulnerable. I was then a mild asthmatic, but my husband is on medication for diabetes and stroke prevention. Very high risk. I decided to work from home, but at my dad’s empty cottage, up a dirt track, twenty five miles away from my own home. Five days in I had my first Covid symptoms – a very sudden high temperature. I put my details into NHS 111 and was told to isolate. I carried on marking A Level projects online for five hours until I realised I could no longer think straight.
    I proceeded to be very ill indeed, but I was determined not to put my husband at risk, and I refused to accept that I was seriously ill. As the nights went on, I began to experience cytokine storms through the night. They were horrific and I was unable to lie down or sleep. I spent every night between 11 and 4 fighting the virus with everything I had. I remember sitting up as breathing became harder, drinking water, telling the virus that I was going to win this battle. But by the early morning of Easter Monday 2020 I was unable to breathe without real difficulty so I called NHS111. I was assessed and an ambulance sent out as my breathing continued to deteriorate. The NHS 111 nurse stayed on the line with me, as the ambulance couldn’t make it up the track. She waited on the line until the paramedics arrived, finding their way with torches. I will never forget what it felt like, seeing their lights. Just as I will never forget the nurse advising me kindly to make phone calls to my family at 1 am in case I was taken into ICU, and became unable to tell them what was happening to me.
    My SATS were just ok. For a life long asthmatic, that was my good luck. The paramedics looked at me with such kindness. ‘You’ve given your husband every chance, but you have fought this virus alone for three weeks.’ they said. ‘Take these and go home once you’ve slept.’, putting three precious face masks in front of me. This was when they had very little PPE, and this still chokes me up.
    I drove myself home the next day and isolated away from my husband for a further week. I was seriously ill for six months – more 111 assessments, another ambulance, and then a diagnosis of acute asthma, trauma, and long Covid. My school was wonderful and eventually put me in for an occupational health assessment: I was signed off work from April through to January 2021. I was still getting frightening attacks of breathlessness until July 2020, when I was put onto daily medication for acute asthma, and at last I was able to breathe. I cannot describe how frightening it is to suddenly not be able to breathe clearly.
    In January 2021, following the death of a family member, and looking at the state of my health, I decided I had to take early retirement, at least seven years before I would have even considered it pre Covid. It was a very worrying time financially, never mind my concerns about my health. I have seen from afar my colleagues struggle, going back into classrooms with no masks, some CO2 monitors but not enough, being told to switch off the monitors if the readings are dangerous, no air filtration systems, no isolation for contacts. And then seeing reports of Covid spreading from schools out into communities, seeing the numbers of my colleagues now ill with Covid, and with long Covid.
    And then this evening the request for retired teachers to go back into lethally unsafe workplaces to replace teachers off sick with Covid. My thoughts on that are not printable.
    Teachers in schools now need money spent on filtration systems. They need masks in classrooms. They need the contacts of infected students or staff to stay home too. How dare Nadhim Zahawi expect retired teachers to put their lives at risk, when he hasn’t looked after the teachers he has got? We are not cannon fodder and our lives are not expendable, and I am very happy to say so loudly, everywhere I can and in any way I can, if it will help keep teachers, school staff, children and communities safer from this horrific illness.
    Mrs Helen Leon

Leave a Reply

Send an Invite...

Would you like to share this event with your friends and colleagues?

Would you like to share this report with your friends and colleagues?

You may enter up to three email addresses below to share this report