Commenting on week 29 school attendance figures published by the DfE, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"The new attendance figures show that a quarter of all pupils were absent from school last week, with over a million being absent for specific Covid-related reasons. In secondary schools, a third of secondary pupils were not in class. 

'The NEU and many other organisations warned Government that schools would face severe disruption by the end of term without compulsory mask wearing, greater mass testing and improved ventilation. Classrooms should have been full of end-of-year excitement and children securing the learning of the past year. This outcome was predictable and is a result of the Government’s failure to heed warnings, or seemingly to learn any lessons at all over the 16 months of the pandemic.

'One in 15 teachers and one in 16 support staff were absent due to either contracting Covid-19, potential exposure to a case or their school/bubble being closed, over six times the rate observed at the start of half-term. Education professionals have been needlessly exposed to serious disease due to the Government’s failure to tackle the spread of coronavirus in schools. More than half of teachers are under 40 years old, and so are unlikely to have had their second jab long enough ago to gain full benefit. And those with underlying health conditions face further fears over the ability of the Delta variant to cause serious illness even among those who have received both jabs.

'The news this week from JCVI that children generally will not be vaccinated means that the Government must look all the harder at mitigations that can impede the spread of the virus in schools from September. 

'Even if children who are contacts are not sent to isolation children who are positive still will be sent home and some of them will go on to suffer effects of Long Covid. 

'We are calling on Gavin Williamson to announce what mitigations will be in place for September around mass testing, improvements to ventilation and testing of close contacts of children who have Covid."