The government has said the Disclosure and Barring Service stands “ready” to meet spikes in demand for its service as ministers seek to entice former teachers back to the classroom to cover Covid absences.
The Department for Education has even pledged to release eligible civil servants to work as supply teachers amid concerns about a worsening picture for schools in the spring term.
Given the importance of “comprehensive checks” for anyone who works with children, those considering signing up are being urged to start the process “as soon as possible and ideally before Christmas Eve to be ready to join the workforce from January”.
Ministers are asking those who recent retired or trained as teachers before moving career to consider whether they can find “even a day a week for the spring term to help protect face-to-face education”.
But Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, warned last week that the call for ex-teachers “does not address the immediate and acute staffing pressures being faced by schools”.
“This gesture will simply not guarantee that all schools will have the teachers they need when they reopen at the start of next term.”
He also warned that “far more action is needed to improve the current market for supply teachers, which is nothing short of a national scandal”. He called on government to address delays with DBS clearances and to meet the cost of certification “so those teachers who do return to the profession are not left paying the bill”.
Staff absences up 20%
The latest attendance survey data showed staff absences jumping by 20 per cent in a fortnight.
The DfE estimates that 2.4 per cent of teachers and school leaders were absent from open schools on December 9, up from 2 per cent two weeks prior. Primary teachers were more likely to be absent due to Covid.
Zahawi said it had been his “absolute priority since day one in the role to do everything in my power to protect education – which is why today I am asking any teachers no longer in the profession to come forward if they are available to temporarily fill absences in the new year”.
The DfE said eligible members of its own staff coming forward to teach would be “released to do so, as long as they are not working on the Department’s own Covid response”.
The Disclosure and Barring Service has also “confirmed it will be ready to meet any spikes in demand for its service”, the DfE said. The DBS will continue to meet its current turnaround times, which see 80 per cent of enhanced checks issued within 14 days, of which 30 per cent are issued within a day.
The government has also revealed it is working with Teach First to “explore how those of their alumni who have trained as teachers but currently work outside the profession could make a temporary return to the classroom to support the resilience of the wider school workforce in the new year”.