Covid isolation surge puts record number of Nottingham pupils and teachers out of schools

By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

More than 3,700 pupils were absent from Nottingham’s schools in just one day due to a rise in Covid infections and isolation.

It marks the highest number of Covid-related absences since the start of the pandemic, with half the city’s schools impacted by the virus.

The absences were recorded on Friday, July 16, with 60 out of 118 Nottingham schools reporting incidents to the Department for Education.

Average attendance across the 60 schools was 70 per cent – 25 per cent lower than normal for this time of year.

In total, 3,496 school-aged pupils and a further 261 pre-school pupils were either off school with infection or self-isolation on this date.

A further 148 staff absences were also recorded.

This is considerably higher than the 2,200 single-day absences recorded during the peak last winter and is a “significant shift upwards” from the 927 recorded exactly a month ago.

The figures were revealed during a meeting of Nottingham City Council’s outbreak control board on Friday (July 23).

Nick Lee, director of education services at the council, described it as a “swift uplift” in cases.

He told the meeting: “It’s fair to say there has been a significant shift upwards.

“This was across around 120 different bubbles or settings across the city.

“We saw this swift uplift in the number of children whose education is [being] disrupted.”

Figures for this week show a reduction in the number of absences, down from 3,757 to 1,981 on July 21.

However, Mr Lee told the meeting the reduction is partly down to several schools finishing for the summer break.

He said: “A number of city schools have finished for the summer, a number of our large academies and independent schools have broken up. 

“Clearly there will be a drop in terms of the overall pupils attending school.”

He added the council does not have “the complete picture”, with several schools not reporting their data to the Department for Education.

The data comes amidst changes to rules ahead of the new academic year in September.

The NHS Test and Trace system must now make contact with families to confirm self-isolation after schools report positive cases.

It is a shift from the previous school-led system, with the changes brought in on Monday, July 19.

Mr Lee described it as a “pilot” ahead of September when class ‘bubbles’ will be scrapped and regular classes will return.

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