Commenting on the attendance statistics for schools in England, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"Last week’s school attendance figures once again show the high levels of disruption being caused by the virus - with 13% of secondary pupils and 8% of primary pupils absent.
"However, these figures were less than the absence rates in the week before half term.
"This, together with data from Wales (1), confirms once again the significant role that schools play in virus transmission, and in turn the significant disruptive effect this has on education.
"In the week after half term 38% of secondary schools had to send pupils home because they had coronavirus compared with 46% the week before half term.
"We had called for the Government to implement a circuit breaker closure of schools for a few weeks to bring the level of infection down and then to implement measures that would keep it low thereby minimising disruption.
"The initial figures from Wales show their circuit breaking lockdown, including secondary school students in year 9 and above, had a big impact on the infection rate reducing it by about 40% amongst secondary age pupils.
"The National Education Union is calling for the Government to take increased measures to suppress virus transmission in schools including by:
- Guaranteeing funding of all cleaning and other health and safety costs
- Ensuring schools are the front of the queue for new rapid tests
- Planning seriously with the sector for the introduction of rotas in secondary schools, with children taught every lesson, but being at home for some of them.
"These measures can reduce the level of disruption in our schools. We cannot afford to see infection rates amongst secondary age pupils rising as they did before half term where they were doubling every two weeks".
Source for Wales: Figure 5 Schools and Colleges COVID-19 Summary Report
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