Number of pupils off school because of Covid almost triples in one week

Number of pupils off school because of Covid almost triples in one week

Number of pupils off school because of Covid almost triples in one week

The number of pupils out of class because of Covid-19 has nearly trebled in just one week, according to government figures.

Virus-related absence in state schools in England is currently at its highest rate since they fully reopened in March 2021, data released by the Department for Education (DfE) suggests.

The DfE estimates at least 239,000 state school pupils (3.3 per cent) did not attend class for Covid-related reasons on 17 June. This is up from 1.2 per cent a week earlier on 10 June.

Around 89.7 per cent of state school pupils were in class on 17 June, down from 92.4 per cent on 10 June.

The number of pupils self-isolating due to a potential contact with a Covid-19 case from inside the school quadrupled in just one week, from 40,000 on 10 June – the week after half-term – to 172,000 children on 17 June.

A further 42,000 pupils were self-isolating due to a possible contact outside school, up from 32,000 the previous week.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “These statistics show a large and extremely worrying increase in the number of children absent from school for Covid-related reasons.

“It clearly reflects the climbing rate of coronavirus cases in society in general and the prevalence of the Delta variant.

“It means that many pupils and schools are experiencing yet more disruption after more than a year of turbulence and it is a grim way to reach the closing stages of the school year.”

He called on the government to think urgently about how to reduce disruption after the summer break.

Mr Barton added: “We simply cannot have another term of large numbers of children spending time out of school because of coronavirus.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said: “The further drop in school attendance figures shows the pressure schools continue to operate under when it comes to managing Covid-19 cases.

“Schools are continuing to work incredibly hard to ensure that all the safety arrangements recommended by government remain in place.

“However, we can see that case numbers are continuing to rise amongst children and teenagers and so it is essential that local public health teams are given the freedom to react quickly and put additional precautions in place where this is necessary – seeking central government approval for such action only risks delaying the necessary measures being put in place.

“This is essential to preserve the continuity of education for pupils. As the prime minister says, Covid will be with us for some time yet.

“With that in mind, it is imperative that the Government also gives schools clear instructions about what scenarios they should expect to plan for in September.”

A government spokesperson said: “Schools across the country continue to have robust protective measures in place, including regular twice-weekly testing to break chains of transmission and keeping pupils in smaller group bubbles.

“We are also taking additional measures in areas where there is a high prevalence of the virus, including increasing the availability of testing for staff, pupils and families and working with directors of public health on further measures to reduce local transmission. Absence in schools continues to reflect wider community transmission.

“Where students have to self-isolate, schools are providing high-quality remote education.”

Additional reporting by PA

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