Schools crisis as teachers stranded abroad

SCHOOLS across Suffolk are facing a struggle to cover for the 159 teachers stranded around the world due to the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.

SCHOOLS across Suffolk are facing a struggle to cover for the 159 teachers stranded around the world due to the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud filling the skies and grounding planes.

The Easter break is a popular time for teachers to get out of the country but many have been stuck overseas after their flights home were cancelled, leaving schools with an almighty challenge on their hands.

Many headteachers have had to hastily arrange supply cover for the first few days of the new term, which starts this morning, and some have drafted themselves onto the frontline.

The Ashley School in Lowestoft is the only site that will be closed today with more than half of its teaching staff currently out of the country and finding it hard to return home.

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And the problem does not just end with teachers - some schools are missing classroom assistants, dinner ladies, cooks or cleaners and are having an unwelcome beginning to the summer term.

Children are also set for an extended Easter break, with many stuck at airports or kicking their heels in hotels across the world while their classmates return to lessons.

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Teachers at Farlingaye High School in Woodbridge have been called on to cover for 10 colleagues stuck in far-off climes, with the furthest away stranded in Singapore.

Headteacher Sue Hargadon praised her team for responding to the challenging circumstances and also thanked those members of staff that had made an “astonishing effort” to get back home in time for the new term.

She said: “There’s a number of staff who have made a real effort to get back and have taken on an awful lot of extra expenditure by hiring cars and catching ferries and getting trains - it’s fantastic that they have made that effort.

“We’re doing what we can with supply staff coming in and other staff have very kindly said they can cover because it’s under exceptional circumstances.

“Everybody is going to be looking for that same supply - I don’t know how we are getting on with that. I think having a PD (professional development) day is really helpful.”

A county council spokesman said all schools had been given guidance on how to deal with the situation.

He said: “We continue to monitor closely the impact of the ongoing air traffic restrictions on schools in the county. Currently, only one school has been forced to close.

“A number of other schools have reported small numbers of staff being unable to return from trips away. Schools have plans in place to deal with equivalent situations and wherever possible, they will continue to operate as normal.”

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