Nearly one in five state secondary schools were unable to fully open last week – and most were due to Covid-related reasons, figures show.
The proportion of state schools that were fully open has dropped, but pupil attendance has risen slightly, according to the Department for Education’s (DfE) latest statistics.
It comes as education unions call for students due to take their GCSE and A-level exams next year to be prioritised for Covid-19 testing to reduce “ongoing disruption” to their learning.
Around 82% of state secondary schools were fully open on October 1 – down from 84% a week earlier.
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.
Overall, approximately 92% of state schools were fully open, down from 93% on September 24.
The cause of schools not being fully open was mostly “due to Covid-19 related reasons”, the DfE said.
However, pupil attendance increased in secondary schools from approximately 84% to 86%.
About 90% of pupils in all state schools were in attendance, up from 88% a week earlier.
The DfE suggested that groups of pupils being asked to self-isolate “are becoming smaller”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “This is the second week of a downward trend in the number of fully open secondary schools, and means that since September 17 the number that are fully open has fallen by 10% from 92% to 82%.
“It reflects the extremely tough circumstances in which schools are operating due to the impact of Covid.
“We remain concerned that schools lack the support from the Government that they need in this challenging task.
“The Government must redouble its efforts to improve the Covid testing system, and ensure that schools are supported by clear and consistent guidance.”