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One in 40 children – 200,000 – did not go to school in England last week because of Covid

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The number of children missing school due to Covid has almost doubled since the start of the new school year, official data shows.

One in 40 pupils was absent from England last Thursday, compared to about one in 80 on 7 September.

The 204,000 who missed class were absent because they had Covid themselves or were identified as being in close contact with a positive case.

Education unions blamed the ‘scary statistics’ for high Covid numbers in schools and urged the new education minister, Nadhim Zahawi, to come to grips with the crisis.

Children between the ages of 10 and 19, who are largely unvaccinated, currently register up to 15 times more Covid cases than older adults.

Some schools have begun to take matters into their own hands, with councils urging them to bring back a series of tougher Covid restrictions.

The Ministry of Education (DfE) estimated that 2.5 percent of all students were out of class last Thursday for reasons related to the coronavirus.

This is higher than the 1.3 percent of all students on September 7, a week after schools closed at the beginning of the month.

One in 40 pupils (2.5 per cent) – at least one child in every two classes – was absent from England last Thursday, compared to about one in 80 (1.3 per cent) on 7 September

One in 40 pupils - at least one child in every two classes - was absent from England last Thursday due to Covid (file)

One in 40 pupils – at least one child in every two classes – was absent from England last Thursday due to Covid (file)

The figures include 102,000 students with a confirmed case of Covid and 84,100 with a suspected case. About 11,400 were absent due to isolation for other reasons.

Another 4,800 were absent due to attendance restrictions in place to contain an outbreak and 2,000 were absent due to school closures due to Covid.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the “scary statistics show a large increase in the number of students out of school due to the ongoing devastation caused by the coronavirus.

Hundreds of schools are told to be ‘proactive’ and bring back a series of Covid curbs

Schools have been ordered by municipalities to implement a series of tougher Covid restrictions in response to rising infections among students.

Hundreds of primary and secondary schools in Staffordshire were urged to be ‘proactive’ and not wait for official government guidance.

The county council has encouraged the return of face masks and year group bells and scrapping meetings and staff meetings. It also advised schools to stagger start and break times to limit mixing in hallways and on the playground.

The Staffordshire County Council, which includes more than 400 schools, is believed to be the first to promote the reintroduction of such a comprehensive set of measures.

Other local authorities have withdrawn minor measures such as the wearing of masks, including Cumbria and parts of Northamptonshire.

Pupils whose family member tests positive are advised to ‘stay home pending the result of the PCR test’, despite the fact that schools cannot legally isolate them.

In August, ministers scrapped the requirement that all contacts of Covid cases must self-isolate.

“We hear from schools where 10 percent or more students are absent and where the staff is also not working because of the virus.

“Teaching and learning is very difficult in these circumstances and it is clear that the educational disruption of the past 18 months is far from over.”

Mr Barton has urged the new Education Secretary to indicate what measures he intends to take to tackle the situation.

He added: “One thing he could do is see why it is taking so long to deliver the CO2 monitors to schools that the government promised at the start of the school year.”

Schools in England no longer have to keep pupils in year group ‘bubbles’ to reduce mixing, and children do not have to isolate if they come into contact with a positive case of Covid.

Instead, they are advised to undergo a PCR test and only isolate if they test positive.

A spokeswoman for DfE said: ‘We are committed to protecting education. Therefore, the safety measures in place strike a balance between controlling transmission risk through regular testing and improved ventilation and hygiene, and reducing disruption to personal education.

“We are working with parents and school and college staff to maximize students’ time in the classroom – by encouraging the use of testing and the vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, and hiring specialist attendance counselors to work strategies to improve the presence where problems have been identified.’

Data from the government’s Covid dashboard shows that 10 to 14 year olds have the highest infection rate in England, at 1,500 per 100,000 people. Older teens have a rate of about 600.

In comparison, age groups over 70 have a percentage of about 100, while for middle-aged people it ranges between 200 and 400.

It comes after hundreds of primary and secondary schools in Staffordshire were urged to be ‘proactive’ and not wait for official government guidance.

The county council has encouraged the return of face masks and year group bells and scrapping meetings and staff meetings.

It also advised schools to stagger start and break times to limit mixing in hallways and on the playground.

The Staffordshire County Council, which includes more than 400 schools, is believed to be the first to promote the reintroduction of such a comprehensive set of measures.

Other local authorities have withdrawn minor measures such as the wearing of masks, including Cumbria and parts of Northamptonshire.

Pupils whose family member tests positive are advised to ‘stay home pending the result of the PCR test’, despite the fact that schools cannot legally isolate them.

In August, ministers scrapped the requirement that all contacts of Covid cases must self-isolate.

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