Record 641,200 pupils off school in England as a result of Covid

A record 641,200 pupils are off school in England as a result of Covid, up from 385,500 the previous week, and a high since classes went back in March.

This includes 471,000 children who have been forced to self-isolate because of a case at school, a 69 per cent increase in the space of a week, according to the latest official data.

Figures published on Tuesday by the Department for Education (DfE) show that 8.5 per cent of all children in England were not at school last Thursday due to a Covid-related reason, up from 5.1 per cent the week before.

On June 28, The Telegraph launched a campaign calling on ministers to put children first as the country recovers from its Covid lockdowns, with action to bring an end to the disruption in schools.

The Children’s Commissioner, the Archbishop of York and dozens of prominent Tory MPs have backed the campaign, urging the Government to axe the bubbles policy in schools. The policy has led to whole year groups being sent home to self-isolate for 10 days because one of their classmates tested positive.

Ministers had originally indicated that they intended to scrap bubbles in time for the new academic year in September. But after coming under intense pressure over the policy, this will be brought forward to July 19 so children can attend summer camps and activities without the restrictions in place.

The Prime Minister announced on Monday night that bubbles in schools would be axed as part of Step Four of the roadmap as he said the "obvious way forward" was testing rather than sending large numbers of children home to self-isolate.

Boris Johnson said that as part of the plan for "living with Covid", a test, trace and isolate system that is "proportionate to the pandemic" would continue to be used.

He told a Downing Street press conference that people would still have to self-isolate if they tested positive or were told to do so by NHS Test and Trace, but added: "We are looking to move to a different regime for fully-vaccinated contacts of those testing positive and also for children."

There are now 28,000 children who have tested positive for the virus, up from 15,000 the week before, the DfE data shows.

Another 34,000 children are suspected of having the virus and 90,000 are self-isolating because of contacts outside the school gates.

And 18,200 are at home because their entire school has closed due to Covid, up from 10,500 last week.

Children in more deprived areas are missing school due to Covid at twice the rate of those in wealthier areas

Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, will address the Commons on Tuesday afternoon to give more details about how schools should operate during Step Four of the roadmap.

Whitehall officials are currently waiting to see Public Health England’s analysis of a pilot in which children carried out lateral flow tests at home every day for a week after a classmate tested positive. If successful, the model could replace self-isolation for healthy schoolchildren.

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