Commenting on the latest Department for Education statistical release on attendance in educational settings to 17 March, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"We did not need to wait for official statistics to know there is a clear jump in Covid-19 cases in schools. With pupil absence for Covid-related reasons trebling in the space of just a fortnight, and almost one in ten teachers and school leaders absent on 17 March, this is a worrying time. Almost a quarter of schools have more than 15% of their teachers and school leaders absent, a figure that has more than doubled in a fortnight.   

"The Government's plan to end regular testing in schools and free testing in the community after this month is clearly a bad call. It will make Covid-19 outbreaks and future waves hard to track and render impossible the efforts to anticipate trends. Without cases being picked up and isolated, widespread disruption in schools due to the virus will become an ever-increasing threat as we approach exam season.   

"We have got to see a change of course on Covid-19 policy from the top, with testing remaining free and at school level a renewed and much more far-reaching commitment to monitoring, air filtration, and other building requirements. It is only though such preventative measures that we can reliably keep education disruption under control, at a time when cases are rising. Living with Covid-19 must not mean ignoring it." 

Editor’s note 

Pupils absent for Covid-related reasons more than trebled in a fortnight:   

  • An estimated 2.5% (202,000) of all pupils on roll in state-funded schools did not attend school for COVID-19 related reasons on 17 Mar, up from 0.7% (58,000) on 3 Mar.   

Almost a quarter of schools have more than 15% of teachers and school leaders absent, a figure that has more than doubled in a fortnight.

  • 23% of all state-funded schools had more than 15% of their teachers and school leaders absent for any reason on 17 Mar, up from 11% on 3 Mar.    

Almost one in ten teachers and school leaders are now absent from school (for any reason, not just Covid - DfE has stopped collecting reasons for staff absence). 

  • An estimated 9.1% of teachers and school leaders were absent for any reason from open schools on 17 Mar, up from 5.8% on 3 Mar. 
  • An estimated 8.5% of teaching assistants and other staff were absent for any reason from open schools on 17 Mar, up from 5.4% on 3 Mar. 

ENDS    

2022-046-NEU