Wednesday, February 21

Record number of pupil absence to school since March due to Covid 

More than 375,000 pupils are off school as a result of Covid, up from 239,000 the previous week. This includes 275,000 children who have been forced to self-isolate because of a case at school, a 60 per cent increase in the space of a week, according to the latest official data.

Figures published today by the Department for Education (DfE) show that 5.1 per cent of all children in England were not at school last Thursday due to a Covid-related reason, up from 3.3 per cent the week before.

Sajid Javid, in his first appearance in the Commons as Health Secretary on Monday, vowed to take “fresh advice” on the issue of children being sent home from school to self-isolate.

This week the Department for Education issued guidance to schools on Monday suggesting that isolation could be replaced with daily testing by September. A pilot is currently being conducted to explore the effectiveness of axing self-isolation of close contacts in favour of daily tests for a week.

The latest data comes as The Telegraph launches a campaign calling on ministers to put children first as the country recovers from repeated lockdowns, with action to bring an end to the disruption of schools, and address the harm caused.

Ministers have been urged to end bubbles as soon as possible to prevent further disruption during the final weeks of term and during the summer holidays.

There are now 15,000 children who have tested positive for the virus, up from 9,000 the week before, the DfE data shows. Another 24,000 children are suspected of having the virus and 57,000 are self-isolating because of contacts outside the school gates.

Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Community Learning, said that ten per cent of the children and young people across the group’s 52 schools – around 3,000 children – were out of school due to coronavirus.

He said the current citation is pretty alarming adding that something needed to be done about pupils having to go into self-isolation in bubbles as soon as possible. Even if ministers are considering a new system for September, he said that something needs to be done sooner than that.

There are still three weeks of this summer terms to run – you can’t just write-off the rest of the term, Mr Chalke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Three weeks is a long time in a young child’s life. We should be doing something now about this, he added.