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Some Westhill Academy pupils moved to remote learning due to staff shortages

Pupils at Westhill Academy will move to remote learning for at least a day. Picture by Chris Sumner/DCT Media.
Pupils at Westhill Academy will move to remote learning for at least a day. Picture by Chris Sumner/DCT Media.

Dozens of pupils in Aberdeenshire will move to remote learning tomorrow as Covid guidance continues to put a strain on staffing levels.

Several year groups at Westhill Academy have been asked to remain at home on January 6 and turn to online resources due to shortages of full-time teachers.

The decision was taken as Aberdeenshire Council is currently trying to find cover for a total of 14 staff absences – which accounts for 23% of all teachers at the school.

It will affect S4-6 pupils for at least a day as the situation is being monitored on a daily basis – with a further update expected to be released on Thursday.

In a letter to parents and carers, the council has described the move as “disappointing”, but stressed all pupils will be provided with the necessary support.

It said: “You will be aware from media coverage that staffing in frontline workplaces is affected by current Covid-19 circumstances, and our school community is part of this.

“At Westhill Academy, currently, this means that we have temporary, insufficient staffing to cover all year groups in school throughout this week, as a result of Covid-19 guidance.

“I assure you this is not a decision we have taken lightly; I am sure you appreciate we have not, as an individual school, had to take this step previously at any time during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Before taking this decision, we deployed fully all of our own teaching staff to cover classes, and engaged any supply teachers/part time colleagues to undertake additional cover.

“We know some pupils and parents/carers are wondering what may happen if pupils are absent before or during their prelims; please be reassured we are monitoring this and will make arrangements as necessary for groups or individuals.”

Meawhile, Rhynie School will also remain closed to pupils tomorrow due to lack of heating in the building. Learning will be carried out online through Teams.

Vast majority of schools remain open as usual

An Aberdeenshire Council spokeswoman highlighted that the situation with staff absences across the region is generally positive, with the majority of schools open as normal.

All pupils, who have been affected, will be provided with online materials to minimise any interruption to the learning flow as teachers continue to “plan and refine” their approach for such “eventualitites”.

She added: “It is a challenge but the vast majority of our 170 schools are open with just a couple of classes having to work from home today.

“The partial closure of Westhill Academy tomorrow will be reviewed daily as we make every effort to ensure as many young people as possible can continue their in-school learning.

“All schools are ready to shift to remote learning should that be required. Planning and refining approaches to remote learning is ongoing and colleagues have been developing their thinking and preparations around this throughout the pandemic to prepare for such eventualities.”

Change in self-isolation rules

Earlier today, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reduced the self-isolation rules from 10 to seven days in effort to minimise the impact of Covid on staffing levels.

The new rules were confirmed in the Scottish Parliament after Ms Sturgeon said it was not “sustainable” to live under measures which “restrict our lives indefinitely”.

Other changes to self-isolation rules include ending the need for close contacts of positive cases to self-isolate as long as they are triple jabbed.

The need for PCR tests to confirm positive lateral flow results will also end – with all changes to come into effect from midnight on Wednesday.

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