Covid-19 pupil absence peaks in nine Scottish councils

School staff absence as a result of the coronavirus also hit its highest level nationally this month
10th November 2020, 11:43am

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Covid-19 pupil absence peaks in nine Scottish councils

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/covid-19-pupil-absence-peaks-nine-scottish-councils
Covid-19 Pupil Absence Peaks In Nine Scottish Councils

This month almost a third of Scottish councils have recorded their highest number of pupils off school as a result of the coronavirus since schools returned in August.

One of the nine authorities recorded almost twice the number of pupils off school on 3 November, when compared with previous spikes in pupil absence.

In East Dunbartonshire, 1,296 pupils were off school due to coronavirus on 3 November, against 673 on 26 August.

National figures on school staff absence, meanwhile, show that since 22 September Covid-19 related absences have been rising and on 3 November hit 2206, the highest level recorded since reporting of the figures started on 1 September. Around half of the school staff absent on 3 November were teaching staff (1,032).


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Scottish government figures tracking Covid-19 related absences show that, nationally, the number of pupils off school as a result of the coronavirus has been rising since schools went back after the October holidays.

However, the Scotland-wide peak in pupil absence recorded in late August has yet to be exceeded. On 26 August, 25,022 pupils were absent across Scotland as a result of Covid-19 and on 3 November - the most recent date for which there are figures, although it should be noted these are marked as "provisional" - 23,034 pupils were absent as a result of Covid-19.

Tes Scotland analysis of the data, however, shows that nine local authorities have exceeded that early peak in absence - usually recorded in late August or early September - and at the start of this month they experienced the highest number of absences as a result of the coronavirus since their schools returned.

As well as East Dunbartonshire, the other councils that recorded their highest ever number of pupils absent due to Covid-19 in the early days of November were: Argyll and Bute; East Ayrshire; East Renfrewshire; Glasgow; North Lanarkshire; South Ayrshire; South Lanarkshire; and West Dunbartonshire.

The figures show that the vast majority of Covid-19 related absences in Scotland are a result of pupils self-isolating.

Nationally - as highlighted above - on 3 November 23,034 pupils were not in school for coronavirus-related reasons. This included 19,960 not in school because they were self-isolating; 2,256 not in school because their parents chose to keep them away; 678 not in school due to Covid-19 related sickness; and 140 not in school because the school was closed.

As of 4 November, three schools in Scotland were listed as closed because of the coronavirus: Cunard School in West Dunbartonshire; Cardinal Winning Secondary in Glasgow, and Poolewe Primary in Highland. 

Research published last month by the Education Policy Institute found that attendance rates in the UK since schools returned had been highest in Scotland and Northern Ireland "with attendance rates close to that seen in a normal year and relatively low Covid-related absences".

The report also found attendance rates for Scottish schools were lowest in the most deprived areas: 89 per cent versus 95 per cent. However, the latest figures recorded on 3 November show that the attendance rate in the 20 per cent most-deprived areas has now hit 86.2 per cent, while attendance in the least-deprived areas has remained relatively stable, sitting at 94.3 per cent.

The latest figures also show that the attendance rate is higher in primary (93.3 per cent) than in secondary (87.6 per cent), but lowest in special schools, at 87.5 per cent.

As of 3 November, the overall school attendance rate for Scotland was 90.8 per cent.

Below are the figures in full for the nine authorities that recorded their highest number of Covid-19-related pupil absences on at the beginning of November:

413 - pupil absences as a result of the coronavirus in Argyll and Bute on 3 November, up from 371 on 8 September

633 - pupil absences as a result of the coronavirus in East Ayrshire on 3 November, up from 478 on 4 September

1,296 - pupil absences as a result of the coronavirus in East Dunbartonshire on 3 November, up from 673 on 26 August.

934 - pupil absences as a result of the coronavirus in East Renfrewshire on 2 November (dropped to 919 on 3 November), up from 646 on 25 August

3,942 - pupil absences as a result of the  coronavirus in Glasgow, up from a spike of 2955 on 26 August and of 3479 on 8 October

2,875 - pupil absences as a result of the coronavirus in North Lanarkshire, up from a spike of 2012 on 26 August

620 - pupil absences as a result of the coronavirus in South Ayrshire on 3 November, up from a spike of 449 on 28 August

2,258 - pupil absences as a result of the coronavirus in South Lanarkshire on 3 November, up from a spike of 1538 absences on 28 August

812 - pupil absences as a result of the coronavirus in West Dunbartonshire on 3 November, up from a spike of 653 in late August and 791 on 30 September  

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