The number of pupils absent because of a potential contact with Covid-19 in school has quadrupled in just one week, new government attendance data shows.
Attendance survey data published by the Department for Education shows 171,600 pupils missed school on June 17 because of potential contact with the virus in school, up from 40,200 on June 10.
At secondary level, 5,400 pupils were absent because their school was closed on June 17, up from just 200 on June 10. At primary, 2,400 pupils were absent due to school closure, whereas none were on June 10, according to the DfE.
There were also increases in the number of pupils absent with a suspected case of Covid, from 10,600 to 16,100, and in the number with a confirmed case, up from 6,500 to 9,200.
Overall, 3.3 per cent of state school pupils were absent due to Covid on June 17, up from 1.2 per cent on June 10 and the highest rate since March. Secondary schools had a higher rate of Covid absence (4.2 per cent) than primaries (2.7 per cent).
Attendance rates fell from 88.7 per cent to 84.9 per cent at secondary level, and from 95.1 per cent to 93 per cent at primary level. The data is adjusted for year 11 and 13 pupils not expected to attend.
Schools told to plan for further disruption
It comes after schools were told to plan for potential restrictions on attendance and the reintroduction of on-site testing, amid concerns about the spread of the Delta variant of Covid. Local health teams can recommend measures in individual schools or small clusters, but decisions for whole areas have to be escalated to ministers.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said the further drop in attendance “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, he warned that it was “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.”
Today’s data also shows a rise in Covid-related absence among school staff.
On June 17, 1.7 per cent of teachers and leaders were absent for Covid-related reasons, up from 0.9 per cent on June 10. Covid-related absences among teaching assistants and other staff also rose, from 0.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent.
Again, as with pupils, the most common reason for Covid-related staff absence was potential contact with a case of Covid at school.