DOZENS more schools are teetering on the brink of closure with a third struggling to find staff to cover sick and isolating teachers.
Half of the schools in England have already turned to supply teachers to get the cover they need because of staff absences.
The National Association of Headteachers have warned that the “worrying” problem is so bad many schools are already “teetering on the edge” of closure.
Schools in England have already experienced absences of more than 10 per cent because of Covid, with 37 per cent unable to source the cover that they need.
Pressure is also ramping up on the Prime Minister to slash self-isolation period from seven to five days.
A senior World Health Organization official claimed it was “advisable” not to adapt coronavirus-fighting strategies based on “early” Omicron data.
But isolation rules are threatening to bring the education system to a standstill, with the economy still struggling two years into the pandemic.
The warning comes after a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
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Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: "Schools are doing everything they can to maintain education for pupils in the face of very challenging circumstances.
"Given that this is a snapshot of just the first day of term, this is a very worrying picture.
"Infection rates – and therefore absence due to illness – could very likely rise as the term progresses.
"Many schools are teetering on the edge and the next few weeks at least will undoubtedly continue to be an incredibly challenging time."
Despite self-isolation rules being changed, teachers might be forced to stay at home for 10 days after testing positive.
It means parents could find themselves plunged into the chaos of last year's spring term, with pupils and teachers repeatedly being sent home unnecessarily.
Many may have to go back to home schooling or rush to find childcare at the last minute.
Boris has faced mounting calls to slash the self-isolation period from seven to five days to allow schools and workforces to get back to normal.
But the Government has said there are “no further changes” planned on reducing quarantine periods but insisted the rules would be kept “under review”.
Some older pupils are also reportedly refusing to wear masks and take lateral flows after returning to school this week.
Secondary school pupils now have to wear facemasks in the classroom again with ministers desperately trying to avoid another home-schooling fiasco.
The government says schools "can decide how best to encourage" pupils to take tests and wear masks.
The Department for Education stressed that pupils should not be "denied education" on the basis of whether or not they wear a mask.
One pupil told the BBC that she felt “more unsafe” in the classroom when pupils were not wearing masks, and felt that her vulnerable classmates were more at risk.
Teachers are also being advised to ignore government guidance and enforce stronger Covid rules.
Gloomy union bosses have urged staff to stagger start times, reintroduce bubbles, avoid mixing classes if there are absences and continue using PCR tests.
The advice from the National Education Union contradicts that of ministers, who have said “keeping schools open" is their absolute priority as cases of the Omicron variant surge.
Schools are doing everything they can to maintain education for pupils in the face of very challenging circumstances
Before Christmas, Health Secretary Sajid Javid cut the number of isolation days from 10 to seven.
This week officials in the US have cut their isolation requirements from 10 days to five, prompting calls from Brits to further slash isolation.
However, the decision in the US by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has been criticised, with some saying it's “reckless”.
Experts have cautioned that continuing with the current number of isolation days is having a huge impact on NHS staffing levels.
In the UK current rules state that if you test positive for coronavirus then you need to isolate for seven days.
You need to take a negative test on both day six and day seven in order to be able to go outside.
If these tests are positive then you must continue to isolate, and must wait until you have two negative tests in a row, up to the previous 10 day point.
But the NHS Track and Trace app is currently still advising people to isolate for 10 days – causing confusion for many Brits.
It's believed that the app has not yet been updated to include the new rules.
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