Pleas for government action grow louder as Covid absence soars

Remember what happened a year ago? There is a palpable sense of déjà vu as teachers and school leaders issue increasing desperate pleas for government action to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 among children and young people.

The latest attendance figures – for October 21, just before the half-term break – show that 248,000 children (3.2 per cent) were absent from school in England for Covid-related reasons – up from 209,000 (2.6 per cent) a fortnight previously.

This includes 87,000 pupils with a suspected case (up from 81,000) and 127,000 pupils with a confirmed case (up from 111,000).

Staff absence also continues to rise, with 2.1 per cent of teachers and school leaders and 1.8 per cent of support staff off work for Covid reasons on October 21.

It comes after UK data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in the week ending October 22, 4.1 per cent of primary-age pupils and 9.1 per cent of secondary-age pupils had tested positive for Covid – notably higher than for any other age category (ONS, 2021).

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