Covid-Related School Absences Hit Record as England Cases Surge

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One in nine state-school students in England were out of school last week due to coronavirus -- the most since classrooms reopened in March following the pandemic lockdown.

More than 821,000 children did not attend school for Covid-related reasons on July 8, the vast majority because they were self-isolating due to a possible contact with a positive case, the Department for Education said Tuesday.

Current rules mean children have to quarantine for 10 days if another pupil in their “bubble” -- a class or even a whole year group -- tests positive for coronavirus. That has hurt businesses and the public sector workforce because parents have to stay home to look after them.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said last week schools and colleges will no longer need to use “bubbles” after remaining pandemic restrictions are lifted on July 19. But the main opposition Labour Party accused the government of “recklessly letting infections spiral” and creating a “crisis” in schools.

Outbreaks in schools are now at their highest level in 2021, according to the National Education Union, while self-testing among school-age children has collapsed to less than 20% from 60% in March.

“Too many of the government’s recent actions on Covid have been driven by optimism, and a refusal to give serious thought to contingency planning,” said Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary at the union.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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