Covid continuing to wreak havoc in schools and exams could still be disrupted, teachers warn

·2-min read
Schools are facing continued disruption due to high numbers of Covid cases (PA) (PA Wire)
Schools are facing continued disruption due to high numbers of Covid cases (PA) (PA Wire)

Teachers warned it is “deeply troubling” that it is no longer possible to tell how many children are off school due to Covid.

According to figures released by the department for education, 10.9 percent of state school pupils were absent at the last count, on April 7.

On the same date 8.2 per cent of teachers and heads were also absent, and in almost one in five state schools, 15 per cent of teachers and heads were absent.

But the government has stopped collecting reasons for absence, meaning it is not possible to determine whether the high absence levels are due to Covid.

School leaders said they are “deeply frustrated” at the lack of clear data, and questioned how they will be able to respond quickly if cases start to rise.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “These changes are deeply troubling and ill-advised, and seem symptomatic of the government’s wider attempts to try to just pretend that the pandemic is over. The ‘living with covid plan’ is increasingly looking like an ‘ignoring covid plan’ when it comes to schools.”

He added: “The lack of up-to-date information raises serious questions about the government’s ability to respond quickly should cases start to rise or new variants emerge in the future.

“School leaders are seriously questioning the thinking behind this decision. An absence of information does not equate to an absence of covid.

“We continue to hear a sense of deep frustration from school leaders as they struggle to deal with the significant and on-going disruption caused by covid. Despite the government no longer collecting data, schools will still have to deal with the reality of higher than normal levels of staff and pupil absence. School leaders feel they have been abandoned.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The evidence we have been hearing is that Covid-related absence among both staff and students was still a huge problem in a number of schools before Easter and that leaders have major concerns about ongoing disruption as we begin the summer term, with important exams for many pupils just a matter of a few weeks away.

“It is very clear that Covid is continuing to wreak havoc and it is hard for schools to operate under these conditions.”

He called for free Covid-testing to be reintroduced to help protect the first public exams in three years.

Today’s figures show absence rates have fallen slightly since March 31, the last time figures were released.

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