Friday, June 21

400,000 pupils off school last week



More than 400,000 children in England were off school last week for coronavirus-related reasons, as the government admitted that “unevenness” in lost learning could affect 2021 exam results.

Weekly attendance statistics from the Department for Education (DfE) estimated that up to 5% of England’s 8.3 million state school pupils lost classroom time, including as many as 50,000 with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19.

The number of schools having to shut completely increased by 50% compared with the previous week, with 60 estimated to have closed, affecting at least 12,000 pupils, the statistics showed.

The DfE figures, based on daily returns from headteachers, found that more than 350,000 pupils were out of school because of possible contact with someone with Covid-19. As expected, a small proportion of pupils are self-isolating but this is similar to previous weeks and the average group size is small compared to the total number of pupils, a DfE spokesperson said.

But Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: The fact that nearly half of secondary schools have recorded one or more pupils self-isolating due to the protocols necessitated by the Covid pandemic, illustrates the continuing high level of disruption they are dealing with.

McCulloch said schools with Covid-19 outbreaks had received patchy advice from the DfE’s hotline, and that the government had not lived up to its promise of readily available public health advice.