Covid costs pupils more than a month of school days over just two terms

Pupils in Shropshire missed the equivalent of 34 days each of in-school teaching due to Covid-19, figures show.

The impact of Covid on school attendances has been revealed
The impact of Covid on school attendances has been revealed

Department for Education data showed more than half of all possible school days were missed over two terms in the region up to March this year. It comes as education chiefs warned schools are “not out of the woods yet”.

However schools are doing “as much as they can” to catch pupils up according to an academy head.

Figures from the Department of Education, which cover the weeks following the January lockdown show that overall Shropshire’s school pupils were educated at home for a combined 1.7 million school days.

The almost incomprehensible figure covers all secondary and primary schools in the county during the Spring term – with most pupils home-schooled from January to March 8.

The number shows the scale of disruption to have affected the county’s youngsters.

Dr Gill Eatough, Executive Principal of the Learning Community Trust, which manages a number of county schools, said the entire profession is working to make sure pupils are not disadvantaged by the time out of the classroom.

She said: “I think we feel we are doing as much as we can as a profession to compensate for the time out of school, but it is not a five minute job.”

Dr Eatough said a number of targeted programmes had been used, with others continuing, to find out where students may have fallen behind.

She said: “We have particular concern about young children and their social development so we are doing a lot of work with that. We have also had the new GCSE specification and so we are starting mock exams so we can see how well they are doing and exactly where the gaps and provide proper intervention to support them.”

She added: “We have to make sure we are doing the best we can for our young people and mitigate what has happened and make sure that when they leave our schools they are in the best position possible.”

Department for Education figures show pupils across the Shropshire Council area missed the equivalent of 1 million days of in-person education between January and the end of March for coronavirus related reasons – 54.6 per cent of all possible school days.

In Telford & Wrekin students missed 785,736 days over the same period – 53.9 per cent of the days they should have been at school.

Around 252 million school days were missed nationally because of Covid-19 over both the spring and autumn terms.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the pandemic had caused massive disruption in England and warned schools across the country are “not out of the woods yet”.

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.”

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.”

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