The number of pupils off school in Scotland as a result of the coronavirus pandemic continues to rise following the end of the summer break last month, with the latest figures showing a new high on Tuesday.
Some 38,361 pupils were off school on Tuesday, 7 September, for Covid-19 related reasons – up from 35,652 the previous Tuesday (31 August) and 16,166 the week before (24 August), according to the new figures.
The official attendance and absence data for the new school year started being recorded on Thursday 19 August, when 7,435 pupils were absent as a result of the pandemic.
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Overall, the attendance rate on Tuesday was 86.5 per cent, with 8.2 per cent of pupils off for non-Covid reasons and 5.3 per cent off either because they were ill with Covid or were self-isolating. (The annual attendance rate in 2018-19, the last full year before Covid, was 93 per cent.)
The lowest attendance rate for any council area was recorded in Inverclyde, where 82.8 per cent of pupils attended school on Tuesday, 8.9 per cent were off for Covid-19 related reasons, and 8.3 per cent were off for non-Covid reasons.
The previous week (31 August) the overall attendance rate for Scottish schools was 87.4 per cent and the week before that it was 92.3 per cent (24 August). On 19 August – when attendance and absence data started being recorded for the current school year – the attendance rate was 95 per cent.
Attendance at secondary schools (82.8 per cent) was lower on Tuesday than at primary (89.4 per cent) and special schools (88.6 per cent).
Almost 20 per cent of S4 pupils were not in school on Tuesday, with the attendance rate for that age group sitting at 80.4 per cent. Around 6 per cent of S4 pupils were recorded as being off as a result of coronavirus, with 12.9 per cent off for non-Covid reasons.
The breakdown of the 38,361 Covid-19-related absences on Tuesday is as follows: 28,107 pupils were off school because they were self-isolating; 8,998 were off school because they were ill with the virus; 1,256 were not in school because their parents had chosen to keep them away as a precautionary measure.
The latest figures on school absence follow the decision by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) not to recommend mass vaccination of 12- to 15-year-olds.
The JCVI decision, published last Friday, 3 September, said that “the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms” for the age group, but then went on to say: “The margin of benefit, based primarily on a health perspective, is considered too small to support advice on a universal programme of vaccination of otherwise healthy 12- to 15-year-old children at this time.”
It said that, in the longer term, there might be more certainty about the potential adverse reactions but that “such data may not be available for several months”.
However, the JCVI decision also said the [UK] government “may wish to seek further views on the wider societal and educational impacts from the chief medical officers (CMOs) of the four nations”.
The Scottish government has confirmed that work is going ahead on consulting CMOs and has said it expects it to conclude soon.