AN increasing number of schools across Barnsley have had to close certain year groups - many of which are preparing for their GCSEs - due to Covid-related staff shortages.

Over recent weeks, many primary and secondary schools have been closing classes and year groups - sometimes for a whole week - due to the public health emergency and subsequent shortage of staff.

However, some of these year groups are taking their GCSEs and are losing out on face-to-face education and instead being taught remotely online.

Both Outwood Academy Carlton and Outwood Academy Shafton were forced to close to year ten students for a number of days last week due ‘exceptional levels of staff absence’.

In a letter sent to parents in Shafton, principal Alison McQueen said: “The health, safety and welfare of our students, staff, families and the community are at the forefront of the decisions we make as a school.

“In light of the current public health emergency, it is with regret that we have had to make the decision to carry out an enforced partial closure to year ten.

“At this moment in time, exceptional levels of staff absence means that we cannot safely accommodate all students in the academy.”

The school was closed for the students from last Wednesday for the remainder of the week - and due to staff absence the school said some lessons may not be provided through Google Classroom.

Support was available for families of students in receipt of free school meals in the formal of a food parcel.

Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, told the Chronicle: “In recent weeks, schools have had to make the difficult decision to close some year groups when staffing levels have become challenging.

“We know schools don’t take this decision lightly and it is only ever taken as a last resort to keep students safe, and it is reviewed regularly to resume in-person teaching.

“When a year group closes, schools continue to support students by switching over to remote learning, with laptops made available on request.

“Schools also offer food parcels for children receiving free school meals and continue to ensure safeguarding arrangements are in place for vulnerable children and young people.

“For vulnerable students and key worker families where parents request it, a school place will be made available when year groups are closed.”

Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central and South Yorkshire Mayor, wants sick pay to be ‘fixed’ to ensure those who test positive are not penalised.

“It is concerning to see local school closures due to Covid, especially the impact this is having on pupils facing crucially important exams,” he added.

“As life returns to normal, it is vitally important that the government gets the basics right to enable us to live well with Covid - not letting infections rip.

“That means ensuring that all classrooms are properly ventilated and fixing sick pay so that staff who test positive are able to do the right thing by their community and self-isolate without risking financial penalty.”

Barnsley’s current coronavirus infection rate is 430.1 per 100,000 residents, though the ten to 14-year-old and the 15 to 19-year-old age demographic - both of which are still in school - have higher rates.

The former is almost double at 708.9 per 100,000 residents.