Commenting on the latest Government attendance and Covid-related data for education settings showing levels of pupil and staff absence, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"Covid-related absences have risen again, with 415,000 pupils absent due to covid on 20 January including one in 16 primary pupils. A quarter of schools now have at least 15% of teachers and school leaders absent, causing further disruption as we move into 2022. With coronavirus cases continuing to rise among school age children this disruption is going to get worse over coming weeks.
'The DfE could have avoided much of this disruption by investing in ventilation and air filtration to suppress case numbers whilst vaccination is rolled out and these measures would have been made more effective by maintaining mask wearing.
'Government has said that there will be advanced information about exam topics to help revision for those sitting exams in summer 2022. However, the reality of on-going staff and pupil absences due to COVID has meant education continues to be disrupted impacting on the ability of many, through no fault of their own, to cover all the required content. Clearly, being told what the focus of the exam is only once revision starts is of little use if the focus of the exam is a topic you haven’t had chance to cover in depth.
'The additional disruption seen in today’s figures only raises further questions about this misguided plan and fairness for students in the summer. As government has refused to help teachers and students prioritise teaching and learning, by releasing the advanced information about topics earlier, they have a duty to ensure grades in the summer will be fair and to explain how they think that will be so.
'In primary schools, Covid disruption once again raises questions about the usefulness of the government's plans for bringing back SATs in May. Staff and pupil absences have interrupted learning frequently and unevenly. SATs results will reflect this and will be even less of a fair measure of children's performance than they were before the pandemic, though schools will still be held to account for their scores. The government should recognise the problem and cancel statutory assessment in primary schools in 2022."
Press Office direct line: 0207 380 4706
Out of hours: 07879 480 061