Pupil absences because of a potential contact with a coronavirus case have nearly doubled in a week, new government attendance data shows.
Figures from the Department for Education show that 46,900 pupils were off school last Thursday because they may have come into contact with a Covid-19 case in school, up from 25,200 on Thursday 22 April.
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And the number of pupils isolating because of a suspected case increased by nearly 5,000, from 6,800 to 11,600 over the same period, although the number of pupils with a confirmed coronavirus case only rose relatively slightly from 2,400 to 2,700.
In total, around 93 per cent of state school pupils were in class on 29 April, down from 94 per cent on 22 April, according to the latest statistics.
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Nine in ten (90 per cent) of secondary school students were in class last week, down from 91 per cent in the previous week, while attendance in primary schools fell from 96 per cent to 95 per cent.
The DfE estimates that approximately 1 per cent of all pupils on roll – up to 83,000 children – did not attend school for Covid-19-related reasons on 29 April, up from 0.6 per cent on April 22.
The number of pupils self-isolating is much lower than figures seen in March, when there were 173,000 pupils absent due to potential in-school contacts.
A DfE spokeswoman said: “Attendance in schools remains consistently high, showing the continued importance of the rapid testing programme for all staff, families and secondary pupils in helping keep the virus out of classrooms.
“It is vital pupils and staff continue to test regularly as we continue on the road map back to greater normality.”
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Small fluctuations in attendance are always likely because of Covid rules, which mean that any positive cases necessitate the self-isolation of close contacts. What is remarkable is how well attendance is holding up.
“This is cause for a great deal of optimism that we are at last leaving behind the misery and disruption of the last year and heading into a more stable period of educational continuity. That is great news for pupils, parents, staff and communities.
“Schools and colleges have done an absolutely fantastic job of navigating through the turbulence of the pandemic. There is still some way to go and there is a need for continued caution, but the signs are very good indeed.”