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Teaching unions accuse government of failing to tackle staff shortages after hundreds of former teachers sign up with supply agencies

TEACHING unions accused Tory ministers of failing to tackle massive worker shortages today, saying the temporary return of former teachers would “barely scratch the surface.”

Department for Education data suggests that 485 former staff members have signed up to help cover absences caused by the omicron variant of Covid-19, after an appeal by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi. 

However, while welcoming them back, unions said that the numbers are “a drop in the ocean” compared to the challenge ahead.

Ministers estimate that one in 12 teachers and school leaders in England — about 44,000 staff members — were absent at the start of the spring term last week.

Association of School and College Leaders head Geoff Barton said the “well-intentioned initiative was too little, too late,” while NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said that returning teachers “do not come close to solving that level of staff absence.”

He stressed: “Realistically, schools are still facing an exceptionally challenging time.”

Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said the plan is an “utterly inadequate answer to staffing shortages,” with a focus on ventilation, vaccination and testing needed instead. 

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