Ethnic minority pupils missed more school than white peers due to Covid – survey

Children from most ethnic minority backgrounds missed more sessions of school in England during the autumn of last year than their white counterparts due to Covid-19, new figures suggest.

Nearly one in 10 (9.2%) Asian pupils were absent from school due to coronavirus-related circumstances – the highest of all the major ethnic minority groups, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

Mixed race pupils had absence rates of 7.3% and black pupils 7.2%, compared with 6.6% for white pupils.

In further detail, the DfE said pupils from Gypsy/Roma and Pakistani ethnic groups had the highest levels of absences, with rates of 10.9% and 10.8% respectively.

This compared to 7.0% across all pupils.

Chinese pupils were the least likely to miss school, with 6.1% recorded as absent due to the virus.

Overall rates of non-attendance were not hugely different, with 4.7% of white pupils missing school compared with 5.1% of mixed race pupils, 4.5% of Asian pupils, 3.7% of black pupils and 2.7% of Chinese pupils.

A queue of secondary school pupils
Pupils returned to school full-time in September (Ben Birchall/PA)

Millions of children returned to school full-time in September after being home schooled for several months due to the pandemic.

A week later, dozens of schools in England and Wales were forced to close again after pupils and teachers tested positive and had to self-isolate.

Rising case numbers led to a tier system being established across England and a circuit-breaker lockdown being held in November.

The nation then went into lockdown for a third time in January.

In May, research conducted by scientists found South Asian communities in England experienced greater levels of Covid-19 infection and severe disease compared to other minority ethnic groups during the second wave of the pandemic.

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The findings, published in the journal Lancet, were based on 17 million adults in England and tracked data from September to December 2020.

Separately on Thursday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the latest figures from its school infection survey.

These suggested that among a small sample of schools in England, 0.65% of primary school pupils and 0.05% of secondary school pupils tested positive for Covid-19 between May 5 and 21.

The sample was based on 142 schools in 14 local authorities, 131 of which returned no positive cases among participants tested as part of the study.