AT LEAST 1,400 school pupils were absent in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole on just one day before the Christmas break because of coronavirus, estimates suggest.

The Education Policy Institute said the high rate of pupils out of school across England is a continuing concern with higher absence linked to greater learning loss.

The latest snapshot figures released by the Department for Education estimate that 1,488 pupils in state-funded Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole schools were absent because of Covid-19 on December 16 – 4.5 per cent of all those in schools which responded to the survey.

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Of them, 1,117 were off because of a confirmed or suspected case of the virus.

A further 36 pupils were absent due to attendance restrictions in their school, 36 pupils were required to remain at home or isolate in line with government guidance, and 127 were isolating for other reasons.

And a further 172 children were unable to attend lessons because their school was closed – meaning that including absences for non Covid-related reasons 86.4 per cent of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole pupils were attending class that day, in the 70 (69 per cent) schools which responded.

This was down from 87.9 per cent on December 9.

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In the conurbation 2.9 per cent of teachers were off - the highest proportion yet.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The challenges posed by having so many staff absent will continue to put schools and colleges under severe pressure.

“The costs of bringing in the supply staff needed to maintain learning is crippling for schools and colleges and the Government needs to step in to help, as well as providing more support on ventilation.”

More recent national figures suggest the picture got worse over Christmas, with 3.9 per cent of pupils and 8.6 per cent of teachers absent for reasons connected to coronavirus on January 6.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “School staff are working tirelessly to ensure classrooms are safe, and it is thanks to their efforts that 99.9% of schools are open once again and millions of pupils have returned to face-to-face learning after the Christmas break.

“We are supporting schools through encouraging former teachers to come back to classrooms and extending the Covid workforce fund for schools that are facing the greatest staffing and funding pressures.”