The government will stop publishing data on the number of school staff working from home because they have a suspected or confirmed case of Covid or are self-isolating.
The Department for Education has announced today that from next week, it will only publish information on the reasons for staff absence if they cannot work remotely or on site.
Data for the autumn term, published last week for the first time, showed reasons for absence for all staff not able to attend schools.
But the DfE said today that because the move to remote education for most pupils on January 5 “enabled many staff to work remotely”, data on the number of staff self-isolating or with a confirmed or suspected Covid case will now only be published for those who cannot work from home.
Because it showed staff absence rates due to confirmed Covid cases for the first time this academic year, last week’s data prompted several pieces of analysis of infection rates among staff.
Analysis by the National Education Union found infection rates among school staff were “much higher” than in the general population.
And research published by the EPI found that absence rates for teachers with Covid-19 were six times higher than pupils in primary schools, and up to three times higher in secondary schools.
But in its data release this week, which does not include updated workforce absence figures, the DfE warned that that absences reported by schools via the daily survey was “not the primary source of data on infection, incidence and COVID-19 cases overall”. Data on workforce absences will be published again from next week, but without information on those who are working remotely.
“From January 5, schools were asked to provide remote education for the majority of pupils which enabled many staff to work remotely,” the DfE said.
“Therefore, from January 11, data on reasons for workforce absence are collected where staff are unable to teach on-site or remotely. This means that staff working remotely who have a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus or who are self-isolating are not included in these figures.”
The DfE added that last term, data on reasons for workforce absence were collected for all staff not on site.
“Therefore, these figures will not be comparable to data on workforce absence collected in the autumn term.”
Fewer teachers in school last week
This week’s data does show that there has been a slight fall in the proportion of teachers actually working on site.
Around 37 per cent of teachers and school leaders are estimated to have been working on site on January 21, down from 39 per cent on January 13.
But the DfE estimates 51 per cent of teaching assistants and other school staff were working on-site last Thursday, the same as the previous week.
Overall, pupil attendance rates remained the same on January 21 as the previous week. Rates were at 21 per cent in state primary schools, 5 per cent in state secondary schools and 30 per cent in state special schools.
However, as pointed out last week, these rates are much higher than during the first national lockdown. Between March and May 2020, attendance rates were just 4 per cent in state primaries and 1 per cent in state secondaries.
Last week saw slight increases in attendance among children with education, health and care plans and children with a social worker.
On January 21, 35 per cent of pupils with an EHCP were in attendance, up from 34 per cent the week before. The attendance rate for children with a social worker rose from 40 to 41 per cent over the same period.
However, the DfE has admitted it under-reported the number of key workers attending school in last week’s data by more than 100,000.
The data published last week said 709,000 key workers attended on January 13, but the DfE has clarified today that in fact 820,000 attended, representing around 72 per cent of those in attendance.
The latest data shows this fell slightly to 813,000 on January 21, around 71 per cent of the total number attending.