Number of pupils out of class rises as school Covid cases soar

Pupil taking a Lateral Flow Test

Secondary school pupils take Covid lateral flow tests at home twice a week. - Credit: PA

The number of children out of school for Covid-related reasons has increased by two thirds in a fortnight, figures show.

The Department for Education (DfE) estimates that 2.5pc of all pupils in England  - more than 204,000 children - were not in class for reasons connected to coronavirus on Thursday last week.

This is up from 122,300 children, or 1.5pc of all pupils, on September 16 - a 67pc rise from two weeks ago.

It comes as positive Covid cases among school children in Norfolk is at its highest level since the pandemic began with 10 to 14-year-olds much higher than any other age group. 

Last week, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the government would not "stand back and let attendance fall" as education is "simply too important".

But the latest analysis of pupil attendance shows that 89.5pc of students were in class on September 30, compared with 91.9pc on September 16.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has said the decis

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has said the decision to allow mock exam results for A-level students is "bewildering". Picture: PHIL MORELY - Credit: Archant

Former local head Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the ASCL headteachers union, said the "grim statistics show a big increase in the number of pupils out of school as a result of the continuing havoc caused by coronavirus".

"We are hearing from schools where there are 10pc or more of pupils absent and where staff are also off work because of the virus," he said.

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"Teaching and learning is very difficult in these circumstances and it is clear that the educational disruption of the past 18 months is far from being over."

Schools no longer have to keep pupils in year group "bubbles" to reduce mixing, and children do not have to isolate if they come into contact with a positive Covid case. Instead, they are advised to get a PCR test and only isolate if testing positive.

Becky Arnold, headteacher of Framingham Earl High School, said they were experiencing the highest number of Covid cases since the pandemic began but that the changes had made a “massive difference” to avoiding disruption. 

“It’s one or two children missing in lessons rather than a whole class going and learning from home,” she said.

She said attendance was lower than normal at 94pc but higher than the overall national figure. 

“Those children who have tested positive it is often because they are doing the lateral flow tests at home twice a week and it is not tending to spread amongst peer groups,” she added.

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