A LEADING headteacher has warned staff shortages due to Covid isolation will be “challenging” as pupils head back to the classroom.

Toughened coronavirus measures in schools will begin this week.

The most controversial move for schools is the reintroduction of face coverings in classrooms for students in year 7 and above.

Meanwhile, all secondaries have been asked to provide an on-site test for students ahead of their return to the classroom.

Caroline Derbyshire, leader of Saffron Academy Trust which runs Honywood school, said the new term could see more pupils learning online.

She said: “We know that [staff shortages] will be a factor and there will be schools in particular parts of the country where rates have been extremely high where staffing will be difficult.

“But this sort of mass of supply teachers that are supposed to be there – that’s not happened, has it, so if we have got shortages it’ll be colleagues who are in school who’ll be doing most of the covering.”

Read more >> Hospitals on a 'war footing' with Covid-related staff absences soaring

She said the idea of merging classes, as suggested by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi in the event of shortages, had already been carried out by schools “all term last term”, but it was “not a long-term solution”.

She said staff shortages would “absolutely” make remote learning more likely, adding: “If you hit a certain point with staff absences in a big school you’re talking about maybe 10 members of staff being off.

“You’ve suddenly got the inability to run a year group – that’s when you start having either year groups or whole parts of schools having to go online, so that’s when you’re going to have that mixed economy of some students being in school and some at home.”

She said this would be “a feature of this half term that we will have to manage, I don’t think anyone’s looking forward to it at all”.

Mr Zahawi outlined new Covid measures for schools on Sunday, saying he wanted to offer “reassurance” before the start of term.

Mr Zahawi told Sky News on Monday that the “priority is to keep schools open”, and the Department for Education has suggested schools merge classes to keep face-to-face teaching in place.