Commenting on the latest statistics published by the Department for Education on school attendance and closures to 24 September, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“With such a rapid drop in the number of fully open secondary schools in the space of just two weeks, it is clear the Government's grip on the situation is now in question. It is doubtful the urgency of the situation has yet dawned on either Boris Johnson or Gavin Williamson, who must now ensure that schools are colleges are equipped to deal swiftly and effectively with any outbreaks that occur on their premises.

“This does not just begin and end with testing, although that situation is parlous enough. We need to see the drafting in of retired, supply and newly qualified teachers to get class sizes down. ‘Nightingale classes’ will be necessary to expand school space – we have been calling for that since June. We also need proper funding support to schools, so that they can remain Covid-secure.

“The Government’s inability to provide what schools need to ensure they remain open for as long as possible is unacceptable and will affect not only children's education, but the wellbeing of staff and students.

"Some of the current partial closures will affect exam classes in years 11 and 13.  It is time for the Government to set out a Plan B for this year's GCSE and A-Level students, not just so that it can be scrutinised but so that the public has some assurance that the Prime Minister and Secretary of State have any sense of direction at all.”