Commenting on attendance levels in education and early years settings to 24 June, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"The continued sharp rise in Covid-related pupil absences risks leaving plans for the end of the school year in tatters. New figures show that 6.2% of secondary pupils and 4.5% of primary pupils were not in school on 24 June due to suspected or confirmed Covid, exposure to positive cases or school/bubble closures. These figures have quadrupled in just two weeks and will be significantly worse in areas with high case numbers. If absences continue to increase, some parts of the country will see schools in de facto rota operation before the end of term.
"Pupils have missed so much valuable face-to-face education in the past 15 months, and it is heart-breaking that so many will now miss end of year trips, transitions to new classes or schools, and a chance to say goodbye to friends and teachers. The NEU has consistently called for the reinstatement of masks in classrooms and mass testing, but once again the Government is reacting late to a crisis rather than anticipating and trying to prevent one.
"NEU members have worked tirelessly all year to continue children’s education in the most trying circumstances and are now being exposed to the virus once again due to Government inaction. 2.5% of teachers and 2.4% of support staff were absent for Covid-related reasons on 24 June, up from 0.9% and 0.7% two weeks previously. Again, figures will be much higher in harder-hit parts of the country, and many of these education professionals are facing daily exposure to the virus without the double vaccination that would give them adequate protection against the Delta variant.
"The Government are once again asleep at the wheel. Schools and colleges follow guidance in good faith and suffer the consequences of doing so. There are more stringent measures that could be brought in right now, and it is a mystery as to why Gavin Williamson continues to do nothing.
"The Government are pursuing a policy of compulsory masks and much greater mass testing in areas with the highest number of cases. Like with the tier system, everywhere will eventually fall under these regulations and so it would be much better if the Government made this a national policy now."
Press Office direct line: 0207 380 4706
Out of hours: 07879 480 061