School attendance hits five-month low, workforce absence soars

Nearly one in 10 secondary school teachers were off last week, DfE estimates

Nearly one in 10 secondary school teachers were off last week, DfE estimates

attendance Covid

School attendance has fallen to the lowest level since the end of January, while staff absence also jumped last week.

The latest Department for Education attendance survey data suggests attendance in all state schools fell to 86.9 per cent on July 7, down from 89.4 per cent two weeks before.

It marks the lowest level since January 28, when 85.3 per cent of pupils attended school amid the first Omicron wave.

Nearly one in five secondary pupils were off last week.

The DfE also estimated that 42,000 teachers and leaders, around 8 per cent of the workforce, and 49,000 support staff, about 6.8 per cent of those nationally were absent last Thursday. Absence rates of this level have not been seen since March.

Nearly one in ten secondary school teachers and leaders were off last week.

It follows a rise in new Covid cases nationally since early June, driven by sub-variants of Omicron.

school absence

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT union, said the data “matches what we have been hearing from our members”.

“Covid has absolutely not gone away, and in fact we are hearing that cases have been on the rise again recently – in line with numbers nationally.

“While the summer holidays are coming up soon, there is already worry about the autumn and winter. The government can’t just leave schools to it in dealing with Covid.”

Only 1 in 4 schools submit data

The attendance data does have some limitations, though. It is based on responses from only around a quarter of schools, with the figures then adjusted for non-response.

It is also impossible to tell what proportion of those absent are off because of Covid, after the DfE stopped asking for the reasons for staff and pupil absence.

The data is, however, adjusted to take account for the fact that year 11 and 13 pupils have been on study leave since April.

Even with exams taken into account, secondary schools continue to have lower attendance levels than primary. On July 7, the DfE estimated that 81.2 per cent of state secondary pupils were in attendance, compared to 90.9 per cent at primary.

Special school attendance was at 84.9 per cent on July 7, while attendance in alternative provision, which usually has far lower attendance than mainstream, fell to 52.2 per cent.

Secondary school staff absence hits 1 in 10

As with pupils, workforce absence is higher in secondary and special schools than in primary schools. The DfE estimated that 9.1 per cent of teachers and leaders were absent from state secondary schools last Thursday, up from 6.7 per cent two weeks before.

Special schools had the highest level of teaching assistant and other support staff absence, rising to 10.5 per cent last week, up from 8.3 per cent two weeks before.

school absence

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