Around one in ten pupils are now absent from school for Covid-related reasons after attendance slumped to 83 per cent.
The latest attendance data from the Department for Education shows that up to 876,000 pupils – between 9 and 11 per cent of the total population – did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons on November 19, up from around 550,000 the week before.
Of the pupils off school as of last Thursday, 18,000 pupils had a confirmed case of coronavirus, 31,000 had a suspected case and up to 761,000 pupils were self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus. Around 66,000 pupils were in schools that had closed as a result of Covid-19.
Overall attendance in state schools fell to 83 per cent on November 19, down from 86 per cent the previous week. Attendance at state secondary schools fell from 83 per cent to 78 per cent, while attendance at primaries slumped to 87 per cent from 90 per cent.
The data also shows that around 200 schools have closed in the space of a week, with the number of open schools falling from 21,600 on November 12 to 21,400 on November 19. The DfE said 99 per cent of schools are still open, down from 99.6 per cent.
It comes after Schools Week revealed last week that schools were being forced to shut their doors as the number of teachers forced into isolation pushes them past a “tipping point”.
A survey by Teacher Tapp found the number of teachers reporting they were isolating due to Covid jumped to eight per cent last week – around double that reported before half-term.
As of November 19, around 36 per cent of state-funded schools said they had one or more pupils self-isolating who had been asked to do so due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school, up from 29 per cent on November 12.
However, the DfE said that 99 per cent of state schools remained open as of last Thursday, though this is down from 99.6 per cent the week before.
A DfE spokesperson said it was a “national priority” to keep schools open “and that remains equally as important in the weeks up to the end of term as it was when young people returned for the new school year”.
“Schools, colleges and early years settings across the country have worked extremely hard to remain open, implementing safety measures and scaling up remote education provision for those children who are self-isolating. Thanks to the dedication of staff, at least 99 per cent of schools have been open each week since the start of term.”
But the National Education Union pointed to the fact that more than 1 in 5 secondary pupils were absent, and said the figures were “the direct result of the government’s negligence”.
“We have always been waved away when we have called for action to protect schooling, and government has refused to look at including schools in a ‘circuit break’ to get cases in schools down,” said Dr Mary Bousted, the union’s joint general secretary.
“They have also refused to look at planning for reduced class sizes or school rotas to keep cases down.”