Exclusive: One in three schools hit by Covid this term

Tes investigation of 62 councils reveals more than 20 areas where at least half of state schools have had Covid cases
13th November 2020, 5:00am


Exclusive: One in three schools hit by Covid this term

Coronavirus: One In Three Schools Have Had Covid Cases This Term, A Tes Investigation Has Revealed

At least one in three schools have had staff or pupils test positive for coronavirus since the start of term, an investigation has revealed.

New figures compiled by Tes show Covid-19 cases have been recorded in 35 per cent of schools across more than 60 areas of the country since the start of the academic year.

The data also shows that at least one in four schools had Covid cases in the past month alone.

And it reveals that there are 22 local authority areas in England where half or more schools have had cases of the virus this term - including six places where staff or pupils at more than three-quarters of schools have caught Covid-19.

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The data comes from all nine government regions in England and covers 62 education authorities, revealing huge disparities between them.

Coronavirus: Wide variation in impact on schools across the country

Tes asked councils to provide figures for the number of schools that have had Covid cases since the start of term. 

Some councils only provided figures for September, so the overall figure for schools affected by Covid-19 this term is likely to be higher.

In Middlesbrough, in the North East, 50 of the 53 schools (94 per cent) in the area had Covid cases. In October alone, 48 schools in the district had staff or pupils test positive.

By contrast, of the councils that provided figures for the whole term, the area with the lowest proportion of schools with Covid was the Isle of Wight, with just 6 per cent.

Headteachers say the differences in the way Covid has affected schools in different parts of the country, revealed in the Tes findings, shows why league tables should not be published.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT school leaders' union, said: "This data shows what we have predicted, which is that pupils will have very different experiences and different levels of disruption to their learning during this year.

"It also shows that it would be impossible to compare one school with another right now, because so many external factors are beyond their control.

"For this reason, the government must urgently rule out using any league tables or performance data this year, and, of course, announce that routine Ofsted inspections will remain suspended in January."

In total 2,988 of the 8,456 state schools in the 62 areas have had cases of Covid this term.

Four out of the six hardest-hit areas are in the North of England. 

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership has already warned that going ahead with exams next year as normal will put students in areas in the North that have seen greater Covid disruption at a disadvantage

Of the 22 local authority areas where 50 per cent or more schools have had Covid cases this term, 10 were in the North of England and eight were in London boroughs.

Bradford Council's figures show that 88 per cent of schools in the district have had cases.

In Newham, East London, the figure was 80 per cent; in Oldham and Leicester it was 78.5 per cent, and in North Tyneside it was 75 per cent.

But many other areas have seen Covid cases affect less than a quarter of schools. 

In Dorset, 10 per cent of schools have had Covid cases; in Somerset it is 13 per cent; and in Buckinghamshire the figure is 14 per cent.   

West Berkshire, Kent, Hampshire and Shropshire have also had less than a quarter of their schools hit by Covid cases this term.

Last month Tes revealed that around one in five schools had a pupil or member of staff catch Covid-19 during September.

These initial figures also showed the areas that were hardest hit were mainly in the North of England. Five out of six areas with half or more schools with Covid cases were in the North.

This included Oldham, where all 15 of its secondary schools had Covid cases in the first month of term.

The Department for Education publishes weekly figures showing the proportion of schools with one or more pupils off because of potential contact with a Covid case in their school.

The most recent figures for the week after hal- term showed that 16 per cent of schools were in this position on 5 November. This was down from 26 per cent in the week before half-term.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: "Covid has had a vastly disproportionate impact on pupils in the North, with attendance dropping as low as 61 per cent in parts of the North while it remains at almost normal levels of 95 per cent in areas in the South, according to the DfE's own figures. 

"With so many children self-isolating, it will be critical to ensure every single child, regardless of their background, is able to work effectively from home. This means access to a laptop and the internet for all children, not just those whose parents are able to afford it."

The DfE has been approached for a comment.

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