Virus hits school attendances in South Tyneside

More than 1,000 secondary school pupils may have been absent in South Tyneside on just one day this month because of coronavirus, new figures suggest.

Coronavirus has hit school attendance levels
Coronavirus has hit school attendance levels

Department for Education figures released for the first time estimate up to 1,069 pupils in South Tyneside were missing on December 10 – an attendance rate of 82%.

Of these, 60 were absent with either a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19.

Because some may have been counted in multiple categories, the DfE estimates the number of pupils absent because they were forced to self-isolate was between 861 and 1,009.

Between the start of September and December 11, South Tyneside had an average weekly attendance rate of 83% in secondary schools.

Rates for the school year so far have varied widely nationally – between 90% and just 70%.

The National Education Union (NEU) said it is unfair that all these pupils would sit exams under the same conditions next year.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said the attendance figures had been "hidden from the public for so long" and that the Government have failed to keep schools safe.

He added: “The interests of an individual child are, of course, to be in school, but there are deep concerned that community spread is being generated by schools, particularly secondaries.”

There were up to 602 primary school children absent in South Tyneside on December 10 because of coronavirus – with 43 off due to a confirmed or suspected case of the disease.

The Department for Education said keeping schools open was a national priority, with every secondary school and college in England to have access to rapid coronavirus testing from January.

Mr Williamson said: “I know some areas of the country have faced more significant challenges and attendance has been impacted by the high rate of infection in the community.

"Where children are asked to self-isolate they should receive remote education in line with what they would receive in school so they do not fall behind.”

The Government has also announced that, while exam-year students will return to class as normal in January, the majority of secondary school pupils will start the term online.