More than a million children were absent from school last week because of Covid, new government data suggests.
Department for Education attendance survey data shows around 1,050,500 pupils, or 14.3 per cent of the total pupil population were absent from state schools because of the virus last Thursday, up 25 per cent from 839,100, or 11.2 per cent the week before.
Of those absent due to Covid, 773,700 were isolating due to potential contact with Covid in school. A further 160,300 were isolating because of potential contact outside school, while 47,200 had a confirmed case and 34,500 a suspected case.
Another 34,800 pupils missed school because it was closed due to Covid.
The data shows how disruption to education continued to increase even as many schools entered their final week of term. It comes after the government announced that from August 16, under-18s who are close contacts of positive cases will no longer have to self-isolate unless they themselves also test positive.
Primary attendance continues to be higher than secondary. On July 15, 82.8 per cent of state primary pupils nationally attended school, compared to just 67.3 per cent in state secondaries.
On the same date, secondary schools reported a Covid absence rate of 17.9 per cent, while primaries had a rate of 12.1 per cent.
The data also shows a rise in workforce absence, continuing a trend seen throughout this term. Last Thursday, an estimated 6.6 per cent of teachers and leaders and 6.4 per cent of teaching assistants and other staff were off due to Covid, up from 5.4 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively on July 8.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, pointed to the number of pupils absent with confirmed cases and called for more efforts to reduce transmission in schools.
“The government’s reasoning behind removing ‘bubbles’ and school isolation requirements was to reduce disruption to children’s education and stop them missing school.
“But with cases rising we are seeing more and more children actually off sick. Unless some action is taken to prevent transmission in schools, disruption to children’s education looks set to continue.”