More than 600,000 pupils were absent last week because of Covid, with around one in ten secondary pupils missing school.
New Department for Education attendance survey data estimates 640,100 pupils, or 8.5 per cent of the total pupil population, were off school for Covid-related reasons last Thursday. This a 66 per cent rise from around 384,500, or 5.1 per cent of pupils, the week before, and the highest Covid-related absence rate seen since schools reopened more widely in March.
Secondary schools remain worse-affected, with overall attendance of just 76.9 per cent on July 1, compared to 87.8 per cent in primaries. Around 10 per cent of secondary pupils were absent for Covid-related reasons last week.
Of those absent from all state schools, 471,000 pupils, or 6.3 per cent of the total pupil population, were off because of potential contact with Covid in school, up from 278,500 on June 24 – a 69 per cent rise.
Around 89,800 pupils were off because of potential contact outside school, up from 56,800 the week before. There was also an increase in the number of pupils off with suspected Covid, from 23,800 to 33,600, while the number off with a confirmed case also increased from 14,900 to 27,500.
About 18,200 pupils were absent because their school was closed on July 1, up from 10,500 the week before.
It comes as education secretary Gavin Williamson prepares to announce the scrapping of the “bubbles” system for managing Covid cases in schools. He is due to address Parliament this afternoon, but health secretary Sajid Javid revealed last night the government planned to change its approach from July 19.
Workforce absence due to Covid has also increased. Around 4.2 per cent of teachers and school leaders, and 3.9 per cent of teaching assistants and other staff were absent for Covid-related reasons on July 1, up from 2.5 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively on June 24.
It comes as the latest data from Public Health England showed there were 215 Covid outbreaks in education settings in the week to June 27, up from 151 the week before.