School pupils in Portsmouth and Hampshire missed 'millions' of in-person school days due to Covid
Pupils in Portsmouth and Hampshire in total missed millions of days of school in spring due to coronavirus, figures reveal.
The Association of School and College Leaders said the pandemic has caused massive disruption in England and warned schools across the country are ‘not out of the woods yet’.
Department for Education figures show pupils across Portsmouth missed the equivalent of 736,779 days of in-person education between January and the end of March for coronavirus related reasons – 54.5 per cent of all possible school days.
In the autumn term, 104,793 days were missed for this reason, meaning youngsters were absent for 841,572 school days over the two terms – equating to roughly 34 per pupil.
The Hampshire County Council figures show students missed the equivalent of 5m days of in-person education between January and the end of March – 54 per cent of all possible days. In the autumn term, 433,540 days were missed for this reason, meaning youngsters were absent for 5.4m school days over the two terms – about 32 per pupil.
The figures include state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in the area.
Last week teachers told The News that Covid cases were rising across the area and while they did what they could, they feared more closures such as that seen at Admiral Lord Nelson School in Portsmouth, which shut for two days before half-term.
Children across England were sent home to self-isolate when coronavirus cases were detected in the autumn.
But for the majority of the spring term, students – except children of key workers and vulnerable pupils – were told to learn remotely amid the national lockdown.
Around 252 million school days were missed nationally because of Covid-19 over both terms – 29.4 per cent – so Portsmouth and Hampshire are both above the average.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said:’Covid has caused widespread educational disruption across the country, but the impact hasn’t been uniform.
‘Even when schools were fully open during the last academic year, attendance varied widely depending on local circumstances.
‘Unfortunately, there is still a very high level of disruption taking place this term and we are not out of the woods yet.’
He said the immediate priority for the government should be to end disruption by increasing the vaccination roll out for 12 to 15-year-olds and encouraging twice-weekly home-testing.
James Bowen, director of policy at school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘This data serves as a useful reminder at just how disruptive the pandemic has been for children and young people.
‘Schools worked hard to provide remote learning, but we know that is no substitute for being in the classroom.’
Schools record general absence – including when authorised and unauthorised – separately, with 3.3 per cent of sessions missed during the spring term due to absence.
In Portsmouth, the absence rate was 3.9 per cent, and in Hampshire 2.8 per cent.
A DfE spokeswoman said the vaccination programme and adherence to public health advice has put schools in a better position than the last academic year.
She added: ‘We continue to work with parents and school and college staff to maximise students’ time in the classroom, and our long-term education recovery plan, supported by over £3 billion to date, will deliver world class teacher training and give millions of children access to high-quality tutoring.’