A Bromyard headteacher says the next few weeks will be challenging for schools as staff absences and a lack of supply teachers hit hard.

Martin Farmer, executive headteacher at Queen Elizabeth High School, said the school is coping well at the moment but will be impacted if more teachers have to isolate.

Covid rates are rising in Herefordshire - and with rising figures come concerns that schools won’t have enough staff to stay open, forcing a return to home learning.

The Government is attempting to address this by asking qualified ex-teachers to return to the profession by signing up temporarily with a supply teaching agency.

“We’ve got staff absences and it’s difficult,” said Mr Farmer. “The new Government plan will help somewhat but there is definitely a lack of supply teachers.

“We’re coping at the moment but the real test will come over the next few weeks. We’re a small school and so it’s going to impact us proportionately more if we lose staff.”

Queen Elizabeth students returned to school this week and took lateral flow tests on-site before resuming their studies.

“Headteachers knew in advance that we would have to test and we’ve been doing it regularly so from that point of view it wasn’t an issue,” said Mr Farmer. “I can see the rationale behind it - it’s quite a good reminder for people to keep testing, maybe if they’ve fallen out of routine during the holidays.

“We only had two positive cases out of more than 300 pupils, but without that testing those two could have gone and spread it, creating much bigger problems.

“The children have all adapted quite well. We followed Government advice and asked parents to test children the night before, and that probably threw up one or two more [positive cases].”

Recent Government guidance for pupils to wear masks in school hasn’t had a huge impact on the school as it had already made its own decision to bring back mask wearing before Christmas.

“We didn’t reintroduce mask wearing in September but we did bring it back in communal areas and classrooms when we saw spikes in school,” said Mr Farmer.

“For the last couple of weeks in December we were wearing masks because we wanted to minimise the number of people impacted for Christmas. We thought we’d review things when we came back in January but that’s now been taken out of our hands to some extent.”

Mr Farmer also paid tribute to the staff at Queen Elizabeth High School: “They have been wonderful - they roll up their sleeves and chip in. It’s a real team effort here and so many parents have told me they appreciate what we’ve been doing.”