Nearly a THIRD of students in Covid hotspot Bolton were out of school due to fear of the Indian variant
Nearly 140,000 students did not attend classes in England in the week before half-time for fear of the Indian variant of the corona virus, figures show.
Data from the Department for Education (DfE) shows that nearly two percent of all students were out of school for Covid-related reasons on May 27, compared to 1.3 percent in the previous week.
Meanwhile, nearly a third of high school students — 31 percent — in the Bolton hotspot area were absent with links to the virus, as were 21 percent of those in elementary schools.
More broadly, covid-related absenteeism in the North West was four per cent, compared to the national average of 1.8 per cent – not only because of Bolton, but also an increase in the number of cases in Blackburn with Darwen.
The South West of England had the lowest levels of Covid-19-related pupil absenteeism of any region, with levels well below 1% throughout the period.
Nationwide, 116,000 students were out of class and are specifically isolating themselves because of possible contact with a case of the virus, the data shows.
The figures come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged students to return to class after recess this week to get tested to ensure they are not asymptomatically carrying the virus.
Unions of school leaders are calling on the government to exercise caution before further easing Covid-19 restrictions and to be proactive in ensuring that transfers in schools do not go ‘out of control’.
In the week before the break, 90,000 students were in self-isolation due to possible contact with a Covid-19 case from the school, up from 60,000 on May 20, a 50% increase.
Another 26,000 students went into self-isolation due to possible contact outside of school, compared to 22,000 the week before.
Meanwhile, 19,000 students were absent because they suspected they had Covid-19, up from 18,000 on May 20, and 4,000 were free after testing positive for Covid-19, the same as the week before.
About 0.1% of students in public schools were absent on May 27 because their school was closed for Covid-19-related reasons, the analysis shows.
The number of pupils in secondary schools fell by 8 percentage points between May 5 and May 27, but the DfE estimates that this is partly due to the fact that schools offer different facilities for pupils in grades 11 and 13.
On 27 May, Covid-related absenteeism was 2% in secondary schools and 1.6% in primary education.
The South West of England had the lowest levels of Covid-19-related pupil absences of all regions, with levels well below 1% throughout the period, compared to 4% in the North West on May 27.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We are now clearly seeing the impact of the Delta variant permeating these stats, and this is reflected in the fact that the absence rate is highest. in areas worst affected by the variant.
“This means that many students have to isolate themselves in accordance with the Covid protocols and will experience even more inconvenience.”
He added: “This situation highlights the fact that utmost caution is needed in the coming weeks before further easing Covid restrictions, and current measures should also be reviewed to see if other actions are required immediately.
“In the longer term, this ongoing disruption provides even more evidence of the need for the government to present a much more ambitious plan for educational recovery than it has hitherto succeeded.”
Some four million people in the north west of England are now in the area with additional restrictions due to concerns about outbreaks of the Indian variety. Bolton, Burnley, Blackburn and Kirklees were already affected but now all of Lancashire and Greater Manchester have been added
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT School Leaders’ Union, said: “We are hearing from our members that more and more schools are having to close multiple classes or ‘bubbles’, especially in higher capitalized areas, and return to distance learning. .
“One school told us that although they were not officially closed, six of their seven-year groups were in isolation because of Covid.”
He added: ‘Governments must be proactive to ensure that transfers in schools, especially with regard to the new variant, cannot go unchecked.
We must not sleepwalk into further widespread disruption of education.
“We urge the government to do everything necessary to protect the school communities.”