School scandal as 600k pupils are sent home due to coronavirus

Six hundred thousand pupils are sent home due to coronavirus: Almost one in five children had to isolate last week… but just 10,000 tested positive for Covid-19

  • The majority of those sent home had not contracted Covid
  • Only a minuscule number, or around 10,000, have actually tested positive
  • Parents’ group Us For Them said schools were struggling with DfE guidance 

Almost 600,000 secondary school pupils were forced to isolate at home for Covid-related reasons last week.

The alarming figures from the Department for Education show nearly a fifth of children were off on October 22.

But the majority of those sent home had not contracted Covid and simply had potential contact with someone infected.

Only a minuscule number, or around 10,000, have actually tested positive, the figures showed. 

Almost 600,000 secondary school pupils were forced to isolate at home for Covid-related reasons last week. Pictured: File photo 

Parents’ group Us For Them said state schools were struggling with DfE guidance which has left swathes of children being unnecessarily out of school.

Co-founder Molly Kingsley said: ‘We know some schools are being sensible but we also know others are sending whole bubbles or year groups home. 

JOBS CRISIS HITS YOUTH HARDEST  

Youth unemployment is set to hit the highest level in four decades after the furlough scheme ends this weekend, a report has warned.

Analysis by the Resolution Foundation reveals young people and those from ethnic minorities are bearing the brunt of the jobs crisis.

It found that one in five 18 to 24-year-olds who have been furloughed have since been thrown out of work – the worst jobs crisis for young people since the early 1980s.

A similar proportion of people from ethnic minorities have lost jobs after being on the Government’s furlough scheme.

The report estimated the overall unemployment rate has risen from 4.5 per cent over the summer to 7 per cent last month. 

But it said the jobless rate for 18-24 year olds has almost doubled since the crisis started to 20 per cent.

Kathleen Henehan, of the Resolution Foundation, said: ‘Worryingly, fewer than half of those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic have been able to find work since.’

 

‘It means we have healthy children who have already missed a lot of schools being sent home again.

‘I think it just goes to show that the rules themselves need urgent review. We ought to move to a system where only sick children are sent home. 

‘Nordic countries are leading the way on this.’

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield has also previously spoken of the ‘chaos’ in some schools.

She said last week: ‘Some are sending entire year groups home for a fortnight because a single pupil tests positive for Covid, something that is actually against Government guidance and should stop.’

The figures, which exclude schools on half term, also show secondary schools continue to be disrupted to a far greater extent than primaries.

It will pile further pressure on the Government’s plans to steam ahead with exams next summer.

More than 55 per cent of secondary schools had at least one child self-isolating at home, compared to 20 per cent of primaries. 

Between 16 and 18 per cent of schools have needed to send 30 or more children home. 

Overall, school attendance dropped from 89 per cent a week earlier to 86 per cent on October 22.

The figures prompted fresh criticism of Gavin Williamson from teaching unions.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, called the figures ‘shocking’ and accused the Education Secretary of having his head in the sand.

She said: ‘The challenge is not going away, so Gavin Williamson must take steps to expand school space, increase staff numbers and help us maintain social distancing.

‘Instead he is ostrich-like, producing increasingly bizarre responses to attendance statistics that insist black is white and all is well. This is plainly not true.’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added: ‘This analysis paints a grim picture of the increasingly challenging situation facing schools with attendance falling amidst rising Covid infection rates.’

Separate figures for October 15 showed the North West and Yorkshire and Humber were the regions with lowest attendances in their secondary schools, at 81 per cent. 

The South West had the highest at 90 per cent.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘As we would expect, some pupils are self-isolating in line with public health advice, but the average size of those groups is relatively small compared to the total number of pupils on roll.’

The alarming figures from the Department for Education show nearly a fifth of children were off on October 22. Pictured: File photo 

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