Schools in the North of England were the worst hit for Covid-related absence in the final weeks of term, new government data has revealed.
It shows that at one point, more than one in four pupils were off school in the North East because of the pandemic.
The data for the period from 10 June to 15 July shows that the highest rate of Covid-19 related absence – adjusted for GCSE and A-level students not expected to attend – was 26.5 per cent in the North East on 15 July.
The start of term: Boris Johnson insists schools are safe as primaries reopen
Department for Education statistics show that the North West had the highest rates of Covid-related absence between 10 and 24 June when compared to other regions.
But this increased at a slower rate between 1 July and 15 July, by 1.3 percentage points (15.4 per cent to 16.7 per cent) compared with the national rate of increase of 5.8 percentage points (8.5 per cent to 14.3 per cent) over the same period.
The data also found that London had the lowest rate of Covid-related absence (adjusted for those in Years 11-13 not expected to attend) on 15 July (9.6 per cent), which still represents a large increase when compared with 10 June (0.9 per cent).
DfE figures on Covid related pupil absence by region
More teachers were also absent for Covid-related reasons in the North East.
The North East had the highest Covid-19-related workforce absences on 15 July, with 11.1 per cent of teachers and schools leaders and 11 per cent of teaching assistants or other staff absent for Covid-related reasons.
This compares with 6.6 per cent of teachers and schools leaders and 6.4 per cent of teaching assistants or other staff absent for Covid-related reasons nationally on 15 July.
In the penultimate week of term, there were more than 1 million pupils off self-isolating because of Covid reasons.
But there is no data for the final week of term last week, as the DfE stopped asking schools for figures.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said: "In the last few weeks of term, schools saw a huge drop in attendance. While much of this was due to pupils isolating, there was, unfortunately, a sharp rise in the number of confirmed and suspected Covid cases in schools too.
"It is clear that this level of disruption cannot continue next year. However, the Government needs to address the root cause of the problem, and not just the symptoms.
"Removing the requirement for close contacts to automatically self-isolate will no doubt reduce absence figures, but it is important the government does more to actively reduce case numbers amongst children and transmission in schools.
"There is so much more the government could be doing to give parents and school staff confidence ahead of the new school year and, ultimately, to make schools safer."