politics

Covid absences soar in schools as 200,000 pupils miss class due to virus


The Department for Education said around 208,000 children were absent due to the virus on November 25, up from 130,000 on November 11

Pupil absences due to the virus have risen
Pupil absences due to the virus have risen

More than 200,000 children missed class due to Covid last week as numbers of pupils out of school rose over the past fortnight.

Figures from the Department for Education show 2.6% of all state school pupils in England – around 208,000 children – were absent due to the virus on November 25, up from 1.6% two weeks before – or 130,000.

Among pupils absent for Covid-19 reasons, the main reason was a confirmed case of coronavirus, with around 106,000 pupils off for this reason compared to 67,000 on November 11.

Some 89.3% of students were in class on November 25, which is down from 91.5% on November 11.

It comes amid concern over the spread of the worrying new Omicron variant, which first emerged in South Africa.







Pupils are being advised to wear masks in schools again
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Image:

Getty Images)

Some 14 cases have been identified in the UK, with experts scrambling to understand the virus.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The number of pupils absent due to Covid dropped after half term but, as today’s figures show, that reprieve was short-lived.

“There has been a marked increase in Covid related absence once again.

“In addition to the existing disruption, there is now also significant concern about the impact the new variant of Covid could have on schools.

“School leaders can’t help but remember winter term 2020 and just how bad things got.

“The government was too slow to act last year – it cannot repeat those same mistakes this year.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “The emergence of the Omicron variant seems likely to make this situation worse.

“We have repeatedly called for more government support for schools and colleges in addressing these extreme pressures.

“The government must do much more to publicly promote the importance of twice-weekly lateral flow home testing among eligible pupils, fully fund air cleaning units for schools and colleges, and properly resource the on-site testing it has asked secondary schools to provide at the start of the spring term.”

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