Pupil and teacher attendances have risen over the past fortnight with the lowest levels of Covid-related absence this year, Government data shows
- Around 2.2 per cent of pupils were absent for Covid-19 reasons on February 10
- This dropped from 3.9 per cent of students a week earlier, according to DfE data
- On February 3, just 135,6000 pupils were off with a confirmed case of Covid-19
- Meanwhile, 7.5 per cent of teachers and school leaders were off on February 10
Pupil and teacher absence rates have dropped over the last two weeks, with the lowest levels of Covid-related absence seen this year, Government data showed.
A total of 181,600 pupils, or 2.2 per cent, were absent for Covid-related reasons on February 10, down from 3.9 per cent a week earlier, according to figures released by the Department for Education.
The rates of absences due to a confirmed case of Covid-19 also dropped, with just 135,600 pupils, or 1.7 per cent, off on February 10, compared with 3.1 per cent on February 3.
The amount of pupils absent with a confirmed Covid case have fallen to below where they were on January 6, when 159,000 pupils were absent with a confirmed case.
A total of 181,600 pupils, or 2.2 per cent, were absent for Covid-related reasons on February 10, down from 3.9 per cent a week earlier (stock image)
Meanwhile, 7.5 per cent of teachers and school leaders were absent from open schools on February 10, compared with 9.1 per cent a week before.
Out of these absences, just 2.8 per cent were off for Covid-related reasons on February 10 compared with 4.4 per cent on February 3.
Around 7.3 per cent of teaching assistants and other staff were absent from schools on February 10, with 2.5 per cent absent for Covid-related reasons, down from nine per cent the weeks before.
An estimated 17 per cent of all state-funded schools had more than 15 per cent of their teachers and school leaders absent on February 10, which dropped from 23 per cent on February 3.
More teachers returned to the workplace this month as 45 per cent of all state-funded schools only had up to 5 per cent of their teachers and school leaders absent on February 10, which rose from 35 per cent on February 3.
Commenting on the figures, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘We’re pleased to see rates of pupil and staff absence caused by Covid are decreasing, and we very much hope that this means a corner has been turned in what has been a very difficult first half of the spring term.’
While Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union, NAHT, said: ‘Everyone is sincerely hoping that the two weeks of improved pupil attendance figures we’ve seen will be a continued trend.’
But he argued that the Government needed to give clearer guidance to schools after the Prime Minister revealed that all remaining legal Covid restrictions will be lifted at midnight tomorrow.
The requirement to self-isolate for at least five days after testing positive for Covid is being dropped, and free testing – thought to cost ministers £2billion a month – will end on April 1 for all but the elderly and vulnerable.
Boris Johnson told the Commons: ‘From today we’re removing the guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing.’
The guidance said that from Monday, the Government was removing guidance ‘for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing’.
Following the announcement, Mr Whiteman said: ‘Although the legal responsibility for testing and isolation has been removed, we all still have a personal responsibility to keep each other safe.
‘Schools and families will still need to co-operate to minimise disruption and keep schools open.
‘Parents and carers need to know what to do when a child has Covid, and that should be made clear by government, not left up to individual schools.’
‘Free access to lateral flow tests is vital. Charging for them disproportionately impacts children and workers from disadvantaged backgrounds,’ he added.
Meanwhile, Mr Barton said heads were concerned the Government’s ‘living with Covid plan, and the lifting of virtually all control measures, does run the risk of causing a new wave of transmission and disruption in our schools and colleges’.
‘We hope that is not the case, but vigilance is important,’ he said.
‘Schools and colleges have weathered a very tough half term with extremely high rates of pupil and staff absence caused by the virus, and they deserve enormous credit for all they have done to keep education going.’
Speaking about the lifting of all Covid restrictions, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said ‘it is not the case that we have defeated Covid, nor that everyone can “live” with it’.
She said Government attendance data showed the ‘high disruption caused by illness and isolation’ and that although the Omicron variant had ‘faded’ across the population, ‘it is nonetheless a presence in schools’.
Dr Bousted said schools need to know whether chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty and the chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance supported the move to end isolation for those testing positive with Covid, which will come into place from Thursday.
‘It is vital that public health, not political considerations, decide that date. We also want to know if the Government is planning any further investment in measures such as improved ventilation,’ she said.
The Covid rule changes come after daily UK Covid data today showed that cases in the UK have been tumbling for three weeks.
It come as school leaders said Boris Johnson’s lifting of Covid restrictions could cause further disruption to education, and create conflict between schools and parents (stock image)
Daily data from the Government dashboard today shows 41,130 infections were logged — 10.9 per cent lower than last Tuesday. The Omicron wave has now been shrinking since February 2.
Another 205 Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded, marking a week-on-week fall of 12.4 per cent.
And the number of infected people admitted to hospital fell 6.1 per cent in a week.
The UKHSA data shows infections have been falling week-on-week across the UK since the start of the month.
The 41,130 figure brings the average number of infections detected over the last seven days to 41,916 — the lowest figure since November 22, before Omicron was detected.
The vast majority of the cases, 30,080, were registered in England, while 1,672 were logged in Wales and 2,951 were detected in Northern Ireland.
Another 6,427 people tested positive in Scotland, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today revealed all legal Covid curbs — including the requirement to wear masks and show vaccine passports — would end by March 21.
Meanwhile, 1,042 infected people were admitted to hospitals across the UK on Friday. The figure is 6.1 per cent lower than the week earlier and marks nearly three weeks of falling hospitalisations.
And 11,357 people were in hospitals across the UK by 8am yesterday morning, down 8.3 per cent in a week.
Meanwhile, another 205 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were registered, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 160,815.
Vaccination data shows 91.4 per cent of over-12s in the UK have now had at least one Covid vaccine, while 85 per cent are double-jabbed and 66.2 per cent are boosted.
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