Covid absences double in a week as 169K pupils isolate

Fourfold rise in pupils self-isolating after potential Covid contact in school – up to 127,000 – after one week back

Amy Gibbons

With schools reopening after the lockdown, the number of Covid absences has doubled in a week, new figures show

The number of pupils off school for Covid-related reasons has doubled in the past week, new data shows.

The Department for Education estimates that 2 per cent of state school pupils were absent last Thursday (18 March) because they may have contracted or come into contact with the virus, or because their school was closed owing to Covid – up from 1 per cent on 11 March.

This includes a near fourfold rise in the number of pupils self-isolating after potential contact with the virus in school – from 33,000 on 11 March to 127,000 on Thursday.


Attendance: One in 10 secondary students still not in school last week

Last week: Back-to-school week involved at least 85 per cent of pupils attending

Analysis: Will Covid rates be safe for 8 March opening?


The data also shows that the number of pupils with a suspected case of Covid has trebled over the same period, standing at 21,000 on Thursday – up from 7,000 the previous week.

The DfE figures, published today, show than on 18 March there were:

  • 7,000 pupils with a confirmed case of the coronavirus, 0.1 per cent of pupils on roll in open schools
  • 21,000 pupils with a suspected case of the coronavirus, 0.3 per cent of pupils on roll in open schools
  • 127,000 pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of the coronavirus from inside the educational setting, 1.6 per cent of pupils on roll in open schools
  • 42,000 pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of the coronavirus from outside the educational setting, 0.5 per cent of pupils on roll in open schools
  • 4,000 pupils unable to attend because their school was closed due to Covid-19 reasons, less than 0.1 per cent of all pupils on roll

Overall, 91 per cent of pupils in England's state schools attended on Thursday.

Covid 'likely to be a feature of school life for a while yet'

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "It is inevitable, with schools fully open once again, that there will be positive cases and close contacts having to self-isolate in line with Covid protocols. This is evident in the fact that there was a slight increase last week in the proportion of pupils not attending school for Covid-related reasons compared to the previous week.

"As we have warned previously, this sort of disruption is likely to be a feature of school life for a while to come yet, and we are not out of the woods.

"Schools are working incredibly hard to manage Covid safety measures and ensure educational continuity for pupils in these difficult circumstances, and we thank them for all they are doing."

A DfE spokesperson said: "While the testing programme continues to gather pace, with millions of tests now being conducted each week, we are only seeing a small increase in the numbers of students testing positive and self-isolating.

"As secondary students, all school staff and parents and carers of all children continue testing twice-weekly from home, we encourage everyone to keep playing their part, testing themselves regularly to keep everyone as safe as possible."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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