Number of schools ‘not fully open’ to children increases due to Covid-19 cases

The number of schools in England reporting partial closures due to suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases has increased amid concerns about testing, figures show.

More pupils – around one in eight – were absent from class on Thursday compared with the week before, the Department for Education (DfE) statistics suggest.

The number of state schools that were not fully open on September 17 due to suspected or confirmed Covid-19 cases also rose to 4%, up from 1% on September 10.

Schools are considered to be not fully open if they are unable to provide face-to-face teaching for all pupils for the whole school day and have asked a group of students to self-isolate.

Approximately 87% of students were in school on September 17, which is down from 88% on September 10, according to the Government figures.

It comes as education leaders have warned that children’s education has been disrupted as teachers and pupils have struggled to access tests to rule out Covid-19 since schools reopened this month.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has called on the Government to improve its testing regime in order to avoid “throwing away” the progress made by reopening schools.

The DfE statistics suggest 99.9% of state schools were open – either fully or partially – on September 17, but the small proportion that were shut (0.1%) were due to Covid-19 related reasons.

Pupil attendance was higher – around 88% – in fully open state schools on Thursday, but it was still down from 90% on September 10.

On average, around 95% of pupils attended state schools in England in the 2018-19 academic year.

Schools in England have been hit with Covid-19 cases since it became compulsory for pupils to return to class this month.

Some have closed their doors days after reopening, while others have told year groups to self-isolate for two weeks following confirmed cases.

On Tuesday, Bath and North East Somerset Council announced that East Harptree Church of England Primary School will close for 14 days following two confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the school.

The response rate to the weekly survey of schools on pupil attendance was 76% – but the DfE adjusted the data to account for those that did not respond.