Leeds school attendance figures buck the trend as national picture shows COVID absence increases

The number of children out of school for Covid-19 related reasons in England has increased by two thirds in a fortnight, Government figures show.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 4:45 am

The Department for Education (DfE) estimates that 2.5 pert cent of all pupils - more than 204,000 children - were not in class for reasons connected to coronavirus on Thursday last week.

This is up from 122,300 children, or 1.5 per cent of all pupils, on September 16 - a 67 per cent rise from two weeks ago.

The figures come as heads reported "a high level of disruption", with a school leaders' union warning that self-isolation rules are "actively contributing" to the spread of Covid-19 in schools.

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What impact is COVID still having on your schools? Leeds paints a more positive picture compared to the national figures.

Last week, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the Government would not "stand back and let attendance fall" as education is "simply too important". But the latest analysis of pupil attendance shows that 89.5 per cent of students were in class on September 30, compared with 91.9 per cent on September 16.

However, one secondary school in Leeds had more positive figures but said it was "continuing to monitor" the figures.

The Ruth Gorse Academy has only had 13 COVID cases since the start of September in a school of 1250 pupils, and, current attendance rates were at 95.1 per cent compared with the national average from last week.

Principal, Ben Mallinson said the number of cases was not a significant concern at this time but the school continued to have safety measures in place.

He said: "We are following the guidelines around hand sanitising, hygiene and ventilation with the windows open. At this time we are not having to bring in any extra protocols and measures.

"We haven't seen the spike in cases that others might have had."

Overall, across the country, about 204,300 children were out of class on September 30 for Covid-19 related reasons. Figures include 102,000 pupils with a confirmed case of Covid-19, up from 59,300 on September 16, and 84,100 with a suspected case, up from 44,600.

About 11,400 were absent due to isolation for other reasons, down from 15,900 on September 16. A further 4,800 pupils were off due to attendance restrictions being in place to manage an outbreak, up from 2,000, and 2,000 did not attend as a result of school closures due to Covid-19, up from 500.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the "grim statistics show a big increase in the number of pupils out of school as a result of the continuing havoc caused by coronavirus.

"We are hearing from schools where there are 10% or more of pupils absent and where staff are also off work 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 being over."

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-19.

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

A DfE spokeswoman said: "We are committed to protecting education, which is why the safety measures in place strike a balance between managing transmission risk with regular testing and enhanced ventilation and hygiene, and reducing disruption to face-to-face education.

"We are working with parents and school and college staff to maximise students' time in the classroom - encouraging uptake of testing and the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds, and contracting specialist attendance advisers to work on strategies to improve attendance where problems are identified."

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