HEADTEACHERS say they are “in awe” of their “amazing” staff for maintaining their resolute drive and commitment as the “spectre” of coronavirus hangs over their heads every day.

More and more schools are turning to home learning as pupils and staff test positive for Covid-19, which leaves one of the most challenging backdrops ever encountered by schools.

They face daily conversations with Public Health England seeking key advice over whether schools can remain open in the face of a rising tide of cases, matching infection rates in the community.

Bev Williams, chief executive of Legra Academy Trust and principal of Belfairs Academy, explained: “You cannot underestimate the challenges staff are under bearing in mind the spectre of Covid-19 hanging over all of us. They have responded magnificently to the challenge and resolutely continue their unwavering focus on ensuring children are fully engaged in education.

“Day in, day out, they arrive at school determined to give young people the best education possible while the country collectively fights the disease.

“And you constantly ask yourself what you need to do next to keep everyone safe.

“We are always on heightened alert, responding swiftly to any cases and constantly analyse the risk, making sure we are prepared.”

And Sue Jackson, headteacher at Lee Chapel Primary School in Basildon, says this year has been the hardest yet.

Jamie Foster, who took over as headteacher at Chase High School, Westcliff, in September, has now praised staff and students for their resilience and help to keep Covid numbers down at the school.

He said: “I am so proud of the way our staff and students have responded to the ongoing pandemic. I would like to thank each and every one of them for making this job, and this school, so special.”

Katie Scarnell, headteacher at Greensward Academy in Hockley, says the time-consuming procedure of dealing with virus cases has now become part of everyday life.

Ms Scarnell pointed to the “very busy and unusual start to the year”, with the team having to plan and implement risk assessments to protect their staff and pupils.

She says the most difficult part has been dealing with the ever-changing nature of the virus and the knock-on impact it has had on schools.

But Jerry Glazier, secretary for the National Education Union’s East Essex district, has warned that if there is a third wave and the virus returns past Christmas, it will only magnify the battles schools are already facing.

He said: “The situation for schools is becoming increasingly challenging, particularly for all the staff.

“I think everybody, even the government, has been clear that we won’t start to see significant improvements until after Easter.

“This will mean that as a whole academic term begins in January our schools are still pressured by the pandemic.

“We are very concerned that the Government hasn’t given schools the right level of support. Some students still don’t have access to the right equipment and resources haven’t been forthcoming.”