State schools

Almost one in 10 staff are absent from public schools in England, according to latest figures

Almost one in 10 staff are absent from public schools in England, according to the latest figures.

The Department for Education (DfE) estimates that the proportion of staff absent for Covid-related reasons has fallen slightly from 4.5% on January 20 to 4.4% on February 3.

Student absenteeism rates have plummeted, with 320,000 students out of school for Covid-related reasons on February 3, compared to 321,800 on January 20.

And about 249,800 students had left with a confirmed case of coronavirus, or 3.1% of students, compared to 321,800 on January 20.

This compares to previous government figures where the average percentage of staff absence due to illness was 5.7% per month of the academic year (September to July) between 2009 and 2018.

The Department for Education (DfE) estimates that the proportion of staff absent for Covid-related reasons has fallen slightly from 4.5% on January 20 to 4.4% on February 3 (stock image)

The current attendance rate for students in all publicly funded schools was 89.1% on February 3, down from 87.4% on January 20.

But levels have not fallen to where they were at the start of last month when 159,000 pupils were absent with a confirmed case of Covid on January 6.

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton said the absence of ‘almost a tenth’ of teaching staff posed a ‘major headache’ for school leaders.

Mr Barton said: ‘It’s good to see the number of pupils absent from schools over the past week has come down, but the main headache for many education officials remains trying to fill the gaps left by the absence of almost a tenth of their teaching staff. ‘

He said the latest attendance statistics “demonstrate levels of absence which continue to put enormous pressure on schools”.

Association of School and College Leaders General Secretary Geoff Barton (pictured) said the lack of

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton (pictured) said the absence of ‘almost a tenth’ of teaching staff was a ‘major headache’ for school leaders establishment.

Mr Barton added that almost a quarter – 23% – of schools had more than 15% of teaching staff absent last week,

He said many had “no choice” but to continue to spend more of their dwindling budgets on procurement staff, assuming suitable staff were available.

“The government must recognize that this problem is not going away and provide schools with sufficient financial assistance to deal with this costly drain on their budgets.”

The latest teacher and pupil absence figures come after an Ofsted report found many pupils were reluctant to return to school post-lockdown (stock image)

The latest teacher and pupil absence figures come after an Ofsted report found many pupils were reluctant to return to school post-lockdown (stock image)

The latest teacher and pupil absence figures come after an Ofsted report released yesterday on attendance.

Ofsted said secondary school students in particular had their perception of the importance of in-person learning ‘negatively affected’ by the provision of distance learning during the nationwide lockdowns.

Low school attendance in England is also partly caused by families who feel they have not had a holiday in a long time or are taking previously canceled holidays during terms, although some schools have reported fewer holidays than d ‘habit.

Year 11 pupils are also concerned about the cancellation of their GCSE exams and ‘how it could affect their future’, according to reports from the schools.

Ofsted said secondary school students in particular had their perception of the importance of in-person learning 'negatively affected' by the provision of distance learning during the nationwide lockdowns (stock image)

Ofsted said secondary school students in particular had their perception of the importance of in-person learning ‘negatively affected’ by the provision of distance learning during the nationwide lockdowns (stock image)

A headteacher said he felt pupils felt ‘you weren’t restless when we weren’t at school all this time in lockdown and doing our jobs from home, so why is it so important now?”

Ofsted has also found that some parents expect their children to benefit from online learning if they go on holiday during school terms.

In January, government figures showed one in 20 pupils were out of school for coronavirus-related reasons, with Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announcing a crackdown on what he described as a “zip code lottery” on school absenteeism across the country.

The Ofsted report – Securing Good Attendance And Tackling Persistent Absence – found that pupils’ worries were not always related to school but to their wider experiences during the pandemic, including parents falling ill or fearing it might occur, seeing parents more stressed than usual, victims of domestic violence or experiencing financial difficulties.

Sometimes particular events in the area made students more anxious.

Some parents also expect online learning to be provided for their children if they go on holiday during school time, Ofsted has found (stock image)

Some parents also expect online learning to be provided for their children if they go on holiday during school time, Ofsted has found (stock image)

A headteacher reported that primary school students were ‘very upset’ by ‘anti-vax’ protests outside their school and that it took ‘a lot of work to allay their concerns’.

Parents have also stopped their children from attending school following media reports of a rise in Covid-19 cases in their area.

The report says that schools that have been successful in increasing school attendance are successful in communicating the need to be in school to students and parents, as well as helping in practical ways, such as buying alarm clocks for families or donating students of responsibilities within the school to motivate their attendance.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said there was “no doubt that schools continue to face very difficult challenges around pupil attendance”.

She added “it is clear that leaders who have previously improved student attendance have managed to maintain good levels this term” through a principle of “listening, understanding, empathy and support – but do not not tolerate”.

Ms Spielman said school leaders who have been successful in improving attendance in their schools understand the importance of making their school ‘a safe place where students really want to be’, and they ‘also seek to understand what prevents students from attending regularly and they put the right support in place to help solve the problem”.