Conwy’s leader paid tribute to staff working at schools and said council workers will have to ‘roll up their sleeves’ as the omicron variant spreads.

Speaking at a virtual council meeting, leader Cllr Charlie McCoubrey explained schools in particular were still facing significant challenges due to the COVID pandemic.

Cllr McCoubrey cited staff recruitment issues and gaps in children’s learning as major issues affecting Conwy schools.

His speech follows predictions the new strain of the virus will become dominant in the UK in the next few weeks, which he called disheartening.

“I just wanted to reassure residents, though, that whilst this is disheartening, we will do everything in our power as a council to keep them safe and protect them, look after and maintain the essential services as we’ve done throughout the pandemic,” said Cllr McCoubrey.

“We’ve paid credit to our staff many times, but it looks like we are going to have to roll up our sleeves and get on with it again.

“Iwan (Davies, chief executive) and the senior leadership team met with representatives of headteachers. They laid out really starkly the challenges they face with staff morale, staff retention, staff recruitment, the difficulties with children who have had educational gaps through COVID. Obviously during the lockdown periods, everyone was in the same boat. We’ve issues now where children have missed several weeks through isolation at different times.

“Trying to catch that up is incredibly difficult for our teachers, so I just wanted to record once again and say thanks to everyone who works in our schools for the incredible work they’ve done keeping our young people safe, keeping them educated, and again I’m sure, as we move forward, they’ll continue to do that.”

Last week also saw Rhyl High in Denbighshire revert back to part online learning for some pupils, due to teacher staffing issues.

Julie Fallon is Conwy’s cabinet member for education and said the plan was for schools to continue up until the beginning of the Christmas holidays.

Speaking on Friday, she said, “We are continuing to monitor the situation, but as things stand, the plan is for schools to close on December 22.

“Heads are working closely with the education department and are keen that schools remain open. Whilst we did see a rise a week ago, numbers of cases have reduced over recent days; however, we will look on a school-by-school basis if there is a need for changes.”

A spokeswoman for Conwy County Council also commented: “There are no plans at present to change the end of term date (22/12/2021) for Conwy schools.”