Over 200,000 pupils self-isolating from Covid after schools reopened

More than 200,000 pupils are self-isolating at home because they have Covid or have been in contact with positive cases after schools reopened, new figures show

  • Secondary school attendance has risen to 91 per cent since schools reopened
  • But up to 201,000 pupils aren’t in classrooms because of Covid-19 concerns 
  • The figures – up from 60,000 last week – have caused concerns over the spread of coronavirus through schools 

More than nine in 10 pupils attended schools in England last week – but a growing number of children were self-isolating at home due to possible contact with Covid-19 cases, Government figures show.

Attendance in state schools last week was the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic, the Department for Education (DfE) analysis shows.

But the data suggests that 169,000 pupils were out of class and self-isolating on Thursday last week due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus.

The DfE estimates that approximately 2 per cent of all state school pupils on roll – up to 201,000 children – did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons on March 18, up from 1 per cent on March 11.

The Department for Education estimates that approximately 201,000 school children did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons on March 18

This includes 127,000 pupils who have been self-isolating due to a potential contact with a Covid-19 case from inside the educational setting, and a further 42,000 pupils were self-isolating due to a possible contact outside of school.

Meanwhile, 21,000 pupils were absent because they suspected they had Covid-19, 7,000 were off after testing positive for Covid-19, and 4,000 were absent as their school was closed due to Covid-19 reasons.

Secondary schools in England were given flexibility to stagger the return of their pupils between March 8 and 12 as these students are being asked to take voluntary Covid-19 tests on site as part of their return.

Overall, attendance in state schools was 91 per cent on March 18, up from 89 per cent on March 11 – when some secondary schools were still phasing in the return of pupils due to the logistics of mass testing.

Around 89 per cent of secondary school pupils were in class on March 18 – a similar proportion to the start of the second week of schools reopening in England.

But attendance in primary schools fell to 93 per cent on Thursday last week from 95 per cent the previous week, the figures show.

But attendance in primary schools fell to 93 per cent on Thursday last week from 95 per cent the previous week, the figures show

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: ‘It is inevitable with schools fully open once again that there will be positive cases and close contacts having to self-isolate in line with Covid protocols.

‘This is evident in the fact that there was a slight increase last week in the proportion of pupils not attending school for Covid-related reasons compared to the previous week.

‘As we have warned previously, this sort of disruption is likely to be a feature of school life for a while to come yet, and we are not out of the woods.’

But he added that the highest reported attendance during the pandemic was a ‘remarkable achievement by schools’ who have introduced a range of safety measures.

A DfE spokeswoman said: ‘Attendance in schools is now the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic, as students and staff continue to follow the protective measures set out in our guidance to reduce transmission of the virus.

‘While the testing programme continues to gather pace, with millions of tests now being conducted each week, we are only seeing a small increase in the numbers of students testing positive and self-isolating.

‘As secondary students, all school staff, and parents and carers of all children continue testing twice-weekly from home, we encourage everyone to keep playing their part, testing themselves regularly to keep everyone as safe as possible.’

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