More than 100,000 pupils off school due to Covid

New figures show a fall in year-on-year absence after changes to Covid self-isolation rules in schools

John Roberts

Covid: More than 100,000 pupils off school due to the coronavirus

More than 100,000 pupils were off school last week after either testing positive for Covid or having a suspected case of the virus, new figures reveal.

The Department for Education said that it estimates that 1.5 per cent of pupils were off school on Thursday of last week for Covid-related reasons.

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This figure includes:

  • 45,000 pupils with a suspected case of the coronavirus – 0.5 per cent of pupils on roll in open schools.
  • 59,000 pupils with a confirmed case of the coronavirus – 0.7 per cent of pupils on roll in open schools.

The figures for 16 September also show that 2,000 pupils were absent from open settings due to attendance restrictions being in place to manage an outbreak – less than 0.1 per cent of pupils on roll in open schools.

How Covid is affecting school attendance

The proportion of pupils with Covid has increased slightly compared with the final week of data collected in the last academic year, when it was at 0.6 per cent.

Overall, some 91.9 per cent of students were in class, according to the DfE's analysis of pupil attendance.

This academic year, the way Covid is managed in schools has changed markedly.

Last term schools were operating bubbles, and close contacts were asked to self-isolate whenever a case within their bubble tested positive.

This culminated in more than a million pupils being off for Covid-related reasons at the end of last term.

However, the DfE has told schools that they no longer need to operate in bubbles, and since August any close contact of a Covid case under the age of 18 no longer needs to self-isolate. Instead they are asked to take a PCR test.

Schools are also no longer responsible for identifying who the close contacts of a Covid case are.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has highlighted how school attendance is higher this year than it was at the same point last year. However, different Covid controls were in place last year, meaning more people were asked to self-isolate.

Today's figures show the majority of pupils off for "Covid-related reasons" either have tested positive for the virus or have a suspected case of it.

Mr Zahawi said: “My priority is to make sure children are in school and back to face-to-face learning. That’s the best place for them to be, so it’s fantastic to see more than 91 per cent of them back in the classroom with their teachers and friends, compared to 87 per cent this time last year.

“That’s down to the hard work of teachers and support staff, as well as families, whose efforts have been heroic in making sure children can get back to school safely. The rollout of the vaccine to those aged 12 to 15, which started this week, is another significant step in building the walls of protection from the virus across society.

“As education secretary, I will be working closely with school leaders and everyone working in education to keep children learning and help them catch up through our National Tutoring Programme.”

The last data the DfE collected on Covid-related absence at the end of the last academic year showed 14.3 per cent of pupils were off because of Covid-related reasons.

However the majority of these – 12.8 per cent of pupils – were self-isolating.

Figures show 0.6 per cent of pupils had a Covid case and 0.5 per cent had a suspected case in the data collected in July.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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