Absence Rate Reaches Nearly 30% At Local Secondary Schools

Pupils required to self-isolate because of classmates' Covid-19 infection

Infection spreading despite social distancing measures
Infection spreading despite social distancing measures

Nearly 30 per cent of all secondary school pupils in Hammersmith and Fulham were absent from lessons at the same time, because of the need to self-isolate.

Government data published this Tuesday (15 December) reveals the percentage of pupils in every area of the country that were absent in each week between last week and November 2, the Monday after half term.

It was decided from September that if one child or staff member showed symptoms of Covid-19, all staff and pupils in their class or year group “bubble” should self-isolate.

The Government said this was the best system available to ensure children could stay in school as much as possible while trying to limit the spread of the virus.

In the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, the virus appeared to affect the largest numbers of school children in mid-November.

On Thursday November 19, 28 per cent of all secondary school pupils, and 19 per cent of all primary school pupils, were absent at the same time.

By contrast, there was 93-94 per cent attendance in primary and secondary schools on Thursday, November 5.

Other areas of the country saw higher rates of absence. Liverpool had 30 per cent of its secondary pupils at home on Thursday, November 19.

Birmingham’s secondary schools had 32 per cent of pupils absent on Thursday November 19.

Elsewhere in London, the borough of Hackney had 35 per cent of secondary pupils absent on Thursday December 10. Havering, in East London, had 38 per cent of secondary pupils absent on Thursday December 3.

Data on the precise number of children or staff who actually had the virus is not known.

The news came as the Department for Education announced that “rapid” lateral-flow Covid tests will be made available in all schools from January.

Currently, only people who are displaying symptoms can order a test, which has made it impossible to know whether people have the virus without experiencing symptoms.

The lateral-flow tests provide results in under 30 minutes. It is hoped that this will avoid the need for children and school staff to self-isolate.

Also this Tuesday, speculation that some councils might tell schools to close early before the Christmas holidays were quashed. Greenwich Council in south east London had advised schools to close early, but the Department for Education ordered the council to scrap the advice and make sure its schools stay open this week.

Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter

December 15, 2020