Attendance figures: half of pupils sent home in England’s secondary schools

As reported by BBC news, almost half of secondary schools in England sent home one or more pupils because of COVID incidents last week, the latest attendance figures show

The updated figures show five per cent – or about 400,000 pupils – are out of school because of COVID outbreaks. It meant pupils isolating in 46% of secondary and 16% of primary schools.

Disruption from COVID has been increasing in schools – but the way of counting has changed which prevents comparisons with previous weeks. Since the start of term, the Department for Education (DfE) has published a figure showing how many schools were only partially open because of having to send home groups of pupils – which had risen to 21%.

But the latest weekly figures use a different way of showing how attendance has been affected during the pandemic – based on one or more pupils having to self-isolate.

This shows 21% of all schools, primary and secondary, sending home a pupil – with up to 13% sending home 30 or more pupils. Below this overall average, secondary schools continue to face much more significant problems – three times more likely to send home pupils than in primary. Overall attendance has worsened from 90% to 89% – but very few schools, about 0.3%, have been completely closed.

Julie McCulloch of the ASCL head teachers’ union said the latest figures showed the ‘high level of disruption’ from COVID outbreaks.

She said schools ‘haven’t received enough support from the government’ over access to testing and health advice – and a helpline set up for schools by the DfE had proved ‘patchy’ in its usefulness.

But the DfE said the attendance figures showed ‘a small proportion of pupils are self-isolating’ which was ‘similar to previous weeks’.

Appearing before the Education Select Committee on Tuesday morning, England’s Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the change in data published on attendance provided more ‘granular detail’.

“So the attendance data that’s published this afternoon will be on a different timeline from the data we’ve published so far, because the data we’ve collected so far asks schools to report whether they have sent home groups of pupils.”

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