Commenting on the latest education settings statistics published by the Department for Education, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

“The rise in pupils absent due to a confirmed Covid diagnosis is a continuing source of alarm. In secondary schools alone, 70,000 pupils were absent with a confirmed case of Covid-19 last week. We welcome the announcement that vaccination centres will open for 12-15 year olds over half-term, as the NEU previously called for. However, more still needs to be done on ventilation in schools and other mitigation measures to stop the virus spreading and putting staff and pupils at further risk as we head into winter. 

“We believe the Department for Education should be following the control measures in place in Scotland, where there is significantly less disruption to education and a much lower level of coronavirus infection among secondary pupils. In particular, we think the Government need to bring back mask wearing in secondary schools, and to ask pupils who are a close contact of someone with coronavirus to take a PCR test before they return to school.”