96% of primary pupils, 90% of secondary pupils and 92% of special school students were in attendance in the week before half-term, showing that schools across the Island are returning to some level of normality.
Peter Shreeve, Assistant District Secretary of the National Education Union, says that the figures look remarkably positive and that the Isle of Wight’s school attendance levels are higher than almost all other local authorities in England.
Despite COVID-19 being almost non-existent on the Island and with almost 80% of the Island’s adult population vaccinated, Peter is calling for the requirement for staff and students to wear face masks to be reinstated.
“We should be proud of the efforts being made by all concerned to get back to the educational normal. However, we should recall how rapid the situation can deteriorate and be aware of challenges hovering in other areas.
“Attendance figures for the week before half-term show troubling levels of Covid-related absence among both pupils and staff in areas affected by the new Delta variant of Covid-19. In Bolton, almost a third of secondary pupils (31%) and over a fifth of primary pupils (21%) were absent for Covid-related reasons on 27 May. And 8% of teachers and support staff were absent for Covid-related reasons on the same date. Figures in other variant-hit authorities like Blackburn with Darwen were lower, but still well above the national averages.
“These figures are deeply concerning for the communities concerned and also provide a warning for the Island about the potential spread of Covid in schools for the rest of the academic year, and the resulting disruption to education if the Government does not get a grip on the situation.
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“Numbers have been pleasingly low in Island schools in the week before half-term with less than 1% of staff or students absent due to Covid-19 reasons. But we should not remain complacent and remember we do not exist in a vacuum.
“In order to keep face-to-face learning on a sustainable footing, Government must take the rising secondary school case numbers seriously. The requirement for staff and students to wear face coverings should be reinstated, and the encouragement for pupil testing must be kept up. Caution should remain the watchword.”