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New analysis of Teacher COVID absences | Education Policy Institute

Luke Sibieta, Research Fellow at the Education Policy Institute

New analysis @EduPolicyInst: Teacher COVID absences were six times higher than pupils in primary schools, three times higher in secondary schools 

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published new analysis of school absences among teachers and pupils due to testing positive for COVID during the autumn term.

The research shows that teacher absences due to a confirmed case of coronavirus were significantly higher than those of pupils – COVID absence rates for teachers (those with the virus, not merely those self-isolating) were 6 times higher than pupils in primary schools, while they were up to 3 times higher in secondary schools.

Teacher absence rates due to contracting COVID ranged significantly across the country: in Bury, Hartlepool, Thurrock, Calderdale, Blackburn and Salford, 2-3% of all ​secondary school teachers were absent during the autumn term due to a confirmed case of the virus, while almost none were in the Isle of Wight and Herefordshire. In contrast, there was far less local variation in pupil absences.

Typically, as the rate of confirmed cases amongst pupils rose across local authorities, the rate of confirmed cases amongst teachers began to increase at a much faster rate. This could be because of increased infections in school, or because teachers are more susceptible to rising infections in the wider community. 

The EPI analysis also indicates that it is very likely that more teachers had a confirmed case of COVID than the wider adult population. However, more government data is needed in order to substantiate this.

Commenting on the analysis, Luke Sibieta, Research Fellow at the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said:

“This research shows that a far greater share of teachers missed school due to a positive COVID test compared with pupils. We find that COVID absence rates in England were three times higher for teachers than for pupils ​in secondary schools and six times higher in primary schools – though there was significant variation across the country.

“Our analysis indicates that teachers are likely to have seen higher COVID case rates than the adult population as a whole – but we need to see more data released by the government in order to confirm this, and to inform any forthcoming decisions on vaccination prioritisation. The government should be looking at this very closely ahead of the potential reopening of schools next month.”  

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