820,000 children out of school because of COVID

Hundreds of thousands of children are missing school because of COVID.
Hundreds of thousands of children are missing school because of COVID.

An astonishing 820,000 pupils were absent from school due to COVID in the most recent figures, government statistics show.

Around 11.2% of state school pupils did not attend class due to COVID-related reasons on 8 July, according to the Department for Education (DfE).

Current rules state that children have to self-isolate for 10 days if another pupil in their "bubble" – which can be an entire year group at secondary school – tests positive for coronavirus.

The new figures show 820,400 schoolchildren did not attend class for COVID-19-related reasons on 8 July – up from around 640,000 on 1 July and 384,000 on 24 June.

The numbers relate to any child who had – or possibly had – COVID, plus those who were exposed to the virus.

Those rules are set to change from 16 August when the use of bubbles in schools and colleges in England will come to an end and children will only need to self-isolate if they have tested positive for COVID.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has also said it will be up to individual schools as to whether they scrap the bubble system before the summer holidays, following Boris Johnson's confirmation that the country will move to Step 4 of his unlocking roadmap on 19 July.

Watch: What is going to happen to school bubbles?

Updated DfE guidance says keeping children in consistent bubbles will not be needed for summer provision, or in the autumn.

From Monday, schools will no longer be expected to undertake contact tracing and NHS Test and Trace will instead identify close contacts of positive cases.

Read more: Gavin Williamson blaming 'lack of discipline at home' on pupils' behaviour branded 'offensive nonsense'

Face coverings will also no longer be advised for pupils, staff and visitors, either in classrooms or in communal areas.

But the education secretary said last week that “some protective measures” – such as enhanced hygiene and ventilation – will remain in place for the autumn term.

Education union leaders have criticised the government’s move to scrap mandatory school bubbles on 19 July alongside all legal coronavirus restrictions.

Watch: What UK government COVID support is available?