The Department of Education (DfE) estimates that 2.5% of all pupils in England – more than 204,000 children – were not in class for reasons related to the coronavirus last Thursday.
This is an increase from 122,300 children, or 1.5% of all students, on September 16 – a 67% increase from two weeks ago.
This comes from the fact that positive cases of Covid among schoolchildren in Norfolk are at their highest level since the start of the pandemic with children 10 to 14 years old much older than any other age group.
Last week Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the government would “not take a step back and drop school attendance” because education is “just too important”.
But the latest analysis of student attendance shows that 89.5% of students were in class on September 30, down from 91.9% on September 16.
Former local leader Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the ASCL school leaders union, said “grim statistics show a sharp increase in the number of out-of-school students due to the continued devastation caused by the coronavirus” .
“We hear of schools where there are 10 percent or more absent students and where staff are also off work due to the virus,” he said.
“Teaching and learning is very difficult under these circumstances and it is clear that the educational disruption of the past 18 months is far from over. “
Schools no longer have to keep students in age class ‘bubbles’ to reduce the mix, and children don’t have to isolate themselves if they come in contact with a positive Covid case. Instead, they are advised to take a PCR test and only self-isolate if they are positive.
Becky Arnold, principal of Framingham Earl High School, said they knew the highest number of Covid cases since the start of the pandemic, but the changes had made a “huge difference” to avoid disruption.
“It’s one or two kids missing out on class rather than an entire class going and learning at home,” she said.
She said attendance was below normal at 94% but above the overall national figure.
“These children who have tested positive, it is often because they do the lateral flow tests at home twice a week and it does not tend to spread among the peer groups”, a- she added.