More than one in five state secondary schools not ‘fully open’ amid Covid-19

More than one in five state secondary schools were not fully open last week, Government figures show.

The proportion of state schools that were partially closed over the past week has increased – and most were not fully open due to Covid-related reasons, according to the Department for Education (DfE).

Around 79% of state secondary schools were fully open on October 8 – down from 82% a week earlier.

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

It comes as unions have warned that pushing back next year’s GCSE and A-level exams by three weeks does not adequately address the scale of disruption that students are facing due to the pandemic.

Overall, approximately 91% of state schools were fully open, slightly down from 92% on October 1.

Approximately 8% of state schools were not fully open due to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 on October 8, up from 7% the week before.

Around 93% of state primary schools were fully open, down from 95% on October 1.

Pupil attendance in primary schools also decreased slightly from the previous week from 93% to 92%.

However, pupil attendance increased in secondary schools from approximately 86% to 87%.

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: “The number of fully open secondary schools has fallen for the third week in a row, reflecting the extremely difficult circumstances in which schools are continuing to operate amidst rising Covid infection rates.”

He added: “There is much that the Government could and should do to relieve the sources of stress that it can control.

“It is ludicrous to resume Ofsted inspections in January, as currently planned, in light of so much disruption and these should be suspended for this academic year.

“School performance tables have to be ruled out given that it is impossible to compare schools fairly in these circumstances.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Regular and full-time attendance in school is absolutely essential to help pupils catch up on time out of the classroom.

“It is encouraging to see the vast majority of schools are open, as has been the case since the start of term, and more than 7.4 million pupils are attending.

“Attendance in fully open primary schools is now consistent with what we would have expected before coronavirus. Across all state schools, only a small minority of pupils are self-isolating and schools are providing remote education in line with what pupils would be receiving in school.

“We will continue to work with schools to ensure all appropriate steps are taken to keep pupils and staff safe.”