The number of pupils missing school due to Covid-related closures nearly trebled in the last week of the autumn term, with one council area reporting secondary attendance of just 14 per cent.
The latest attendance data from the Department for Education (DfE) shows the scale of disruption schools were facing in the same week the government was issuing legal threats forcing some settings to stay open.
The publication of attendance figures for December 16 was originally slated for December 22, the DfE decided to push back the report “to enable a fuller explanation of attendance trends”.
The data shows that the number of pupils absent because their schools closed for Covid-related reasons rose from 53,000 on December 10 to 137,000 on December 16.
Overall attendance plummeted from 84.6 on December 10 to 79.2 per cent on December 16 – with attendance at primary schools dropping from 89 to 86 per cent and secondary attendance falling from 80 to 72 per cent.
In total around 872,000 pupils, up to 11 per cent of the total population, did not attend school for Covid-related reasons on December 16 – compared with 694,000 on December 10.
Of the pupils off school on December 16, 18,000 had a confirmed case of coronavirus while 38,000 were off with a suspected case.
But most pupils absent due to Covid – 679,000 – were self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus, up from 594,000 the previous week.
Data from local authorities also found three councils had less than one in four secondary pupils attending school during the final week of term.
In Thurrock, secondary attendance was at 14 per cent on December 16, while in Redbridge it was 17 per cent and in Havering it was 24 per cent.
That same week, education secretary Gavin Williamson issued a “temporary continuity direction” under emergency Coronavirus legislation to order the London Borough of Greenwich to retract a request for schools to close early for Christmas.
And Presdales School, in Hertfordshire was forced to u-turn on plans to move to online learning following a ‘minded to terminate’ legal letter from Nick Gibb.
Spring term statistics
More than one in four pupils were absent from primary schools outside the government’s contingency framework on the first day of the spring term, attendance data shows.
Primary schools were told to open as planned on Monday January 4 unless they were in parts of London and the south east that were highlighted by the government.
Today’s data shows that in primary schools in areas affected by the contingency framework, where attendance was restricted to vulnerable children and those of key workers, just 6 per cent of pupils attended on the first day of term.
But attendance at primary schools outside the contingency framework areas was at just 74 per cent. The government announced partial school closures across England later that day.