The number of pupils absent from school because of Covid has increased by two thirds in just two weeks.
Data published by the Department for Education today estimates that 204,000 pupils, or 2.5 per cent of the pupil population, were absent for Covid-related reasons on September 30.
This is up from 122,000, or 1.5 per cent of pupils, on September 16 – a 67 per cent rise.
It comes despite a pledge by the new education secretary Nadhim Zahawi not to “stand back and let attendance fall”. “We must do everything we can to keep as many in face-to-face learning as possible,” he wrote in the Telegraph.
The absences include 102,000 pupils off with confirmed Covid cases, up from 59,000, and 84,000 with suspected cases, up from 45,000.
A further 5,000 pupils were absent because of attendance restrictions to manage an outbreak on September 30, up from 2,000 on September 16. And 11,000 were absent due to isolation for other reasons, down from 16,000.
Another 2,000 pupils were absent due to Covid-related school closures, up from less than 500 cases on September 16.
Today’s figures are likely to further fuel fears about the impact of Covid on schools and their pupils.
They come on the same day a survey from the NAHT school leaders’ union found more than one in four schools have exceeded the government’s contingency thresholds so far this term, meaning they should re-introduce stricter Covid measures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that one in every 20 secondary school age children is now infected with Covid.
‘Grim statistics reveal Covid havoc’
Geoff Barton, from the ASCL leadership union, said today’s “grim statistics show a big increase in the number of pupils out of school as a result of the continuing havoc caused by coronavirus”.
“We are hearing from schools where there are 10 per cent or more of pupils absent and where staff are also off work because of the virus. Teaching and learning is very difficult in these circumstances and it is clear that the educational disruption of the past 18 months is far from being over.”
Today’s figures show that on-side attendance in state schools was 89.5 per cent on Thursday, down from 91.9 per cent on September 16.
Secondary schools had 86.3 per cent of pupils in, compared to 92.6 per cent in primaries.
For comparison, the overall absence rate in 2018-19 was 4.7 per cent.
Paul Whiteman, NAHT leader, added: “No one wants to see a child miss any time off school, but there is a real risk that the current policy is inadvertently leading to more children missing school in the long run.”
Teacher Covid absences rise too
The DfE estimates that 1.7 per cent of teachers and school leaders and 1.5 per cent of teaching assistants and other staff were absent due to Covid reasons on September 30.
This is up from 1 per cent for both staff categories on September 16.
Another 4.4 per cent of teachers and 5 per cent of teaching assistants and other staff were off for “other” reasons, up from 3.4 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively on September 16.