Covid: Huge rise in pupils not in school last week as absences hit 640,000

Figures are dramatic increase on previous week when around 330,000 pupils were self-isolating due to potential contact with a coronavirus case

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 06 July 2021 15:11
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<p>Boris Johnson visiting Cleves Cross Primary School in Ferryhill. The government’s rules on Covid management in schools and colleges is to be overhauled under step 4 of the roadmap</p>

Boris Johnson visiting Cleves Cross Primary School in Ferryhill. The government’s rules on Covid management in schools and colleges is to be overhauled under step 4 of the roadmap

School absences hit a new record high last week with more than 640,000 pupils forced off due to factors linked to the pandemic.

Around 561,000 children were self-isolating due to a possible contact with a Covid-19 case, while 34,000 pupils had a suspected case of coronavirus and 28,000 had a confirmed case of the virus.

More than 18,000 pupils were out of school because their school was closed.

The figures are a dramatic increase on the more than 330,000 pupils who were self-isolating due to potential contact with a Covid case - 270,000 of these involving potential contact in an educational setting - and tens of thousands more who were out of school with a suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection, over the previous seven days.

Government figures show that around one in 12 (8.5 per cent) state school pupils did not attend class for Covid-related reasons on 1 July, up from 5.1 per cent on 24 June, 3.3 per cent on 17 June and 1.1 per cent on 10 June.

The figures – which has been adjusted to exclude year 11-13 students not expected to attend because they are off-site – show that an estimated 83.4 per cent of state school pupils in England were in class on 1 July – down from 87.4 per cent on 24 June and 89.7 per cent on 17 June.

Just 76.9 per cent of secondary school pupils attended class, down from 82.4 per cent, while 87.8 per cent of primary school pupils were in class, down from 90.9 per cent.

The number of pupils self-isolating due to a potential contact with a Covid case from inside the school rose over the course of a week from 279,000 on 24 June to 471,000 children on 1 July.

A further 90,000 pupils were self-isolating due to a possible contact outside school, up from 57,000 the previous week.

And 34,000 pupils were absent because they were suspected of having Covid, up from 24,000 on 24 June, and 28,000 were off after testing positive for Covid, up from 15,000.

Around 0.2 per cent of pupils were absent on 1 July because their school was closed due to Covid-19 related reasons, compared to 0.1 per cent the previous week.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This is another massive rise in Covid-related pupil absence.

“The vast majority of these absences are children who are self-isolating not because they necessarily have the virus themselves, but because of potential contact with a positive case.

“It highlights why the government's rules on Covid management in schools and colleges must change in order to end this educational disruption and the prime minister yesterday confirmed this will happen as part of the step 4 road map in England.

“We look forward to hearing the details from the education secretary this afternoon.”

Additional reporting by PA

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