Number of children out of school increases 30% in one week as Covid ‘crisis’ hits education

More than 800,000 did not attend state school in England last week due to Covid-linked absence

Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 13 July 2021 17:01 BST
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Numbers at home are rising and at the highest since March
Numbers at home are rising and at the highest since March (Getty Images)

The number of pupils off school due to Covid-19-related reasons has increased by 30 per cent in a week, more evidence of the crisis in education according to one union.

Government figures indicate more than 800,000 students in England were self-isolating and did not attend school on Thursday last week.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the number of pupils out of state schools is rising and at the highest level since March, when they were allowed back in class amid the pandemic.

It was a 31 per cent rise on the numbers self-isolating the week before, the previous record since the spring.

On 8 July, an estimated 11.2 per cent – more than 820,000 – pupils were off with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, self-isolating after being identified as a potential contact or were from schools which had closed because of coronavirus.

This was up from 8.5 per cent on 1 July and 5.1 per cent on 24 June.

Geoff Barton of the Association of School and College Leaders said: “This further large increase in Covid-related pupil absence is more evidence, if it were needed, of the crisis in schools and colleges caused directly by the rules requiring teachers to send home large numbers of children to self-isolate who do not necessarily have the virus.

“The government’s decision to end this disruptive policy when the autumn term begins now heralds another huge set of challenges for education settings.

“They need substantial support, both financially and practically, in setting up on-site asymptomatic testing for students when they return in September, installing high-quality air ventilation systems and in having robust outbreak management plans ready.”

Last week, Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said school “bubbles” to keep pupils and teachers in groups to minimise mixing are set to be scrapped on 19 July.

Concerns have been raised in recent weeks about the interpretation of rules which have resulted in large groups of pupils being sent home for 10 days if another pupil in their bubble tests positive for Covid-19.

About 624,000 pupils were self-isolating on Thursday due to potential contact with a Covid case in an educational setting, the DfE estimated.

This is compared with 123,000 self-isolating due to potential contact with a case outside of education.

The latest figures also show 39,000 pupils were off school after testing positive and 35,000 were off with a suspected infection on Thursday.

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