THE proportion of pupils attending state schools in England dropped in the week before half-term amid concerns about the Delta variant of coronavirus, Government figures show.

Around 88% of state school pupils were in class on May 27, down from 91% on May 20, according to the Department for Education (DfE) statistics.

The DfE estimates that approximately 1.8% of all pupils, around 139,000 children, on roll did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons on May 27, compared to 1.3% the previous week.

But in the North West of England, where there has been an increase in coronavirus cases, around 4% of pupils did not attend school on May 27 for Covid-19 related reasons, according to the DfE analysis.

Nearly a third (31%) of secondary school pupils and more than a fifth (21%) of primary school pupils in Bolton were absent linked to Covid-19 on the week before half-term, the figures suggest.

Overall, across England, the data suggests that 116,000 pupils were out of class and self-isolating on May 27 due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus, compared to 82,000 the previous week.

The figures come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged pupils returning to class this week after half-term to get tested to ensure they are not asymptomatically carrying the virus.

School leaders’ unions are calling on the Government to be cautious before any further easing of Covid-19 restrictions and to be proactive to ensure that transmission in schools does not “proceed unchecked”.

On the week before half-term, 90,000 pupils were self-isolating due to a potential contact with a Covid-19 case from inside the school, up from 60,000 on May 20, a rise of 50%.

A further 26,000 pupils were self-isolating due to a possible contact outside school, up from 22,000 the previous week.

Meanwhile, 19,000 pupils were absent because they suspected they had Covid-19, up from 18,000 on May 20, and 4,000 were off after testing positive for Covid-19, the same as the week before.

Around 0.1% of pupils in state schools were absent on May 27 because their school was closed due to Covid-19 related reasons, the analysis shows.

Approximately 82% of secondary school pupils attended on May 27, down from 87% on the previous week, but the DfE estimates that this drop was partially due to schools offering different provision for year 11 and 13 pupils.

In secondary schools, Covid-related absence was 2% on May 27 and in primary schools it was 1.6%.

The South West of England had the lowest levels of Covid-19 related pupil absence of any region, with levels well below 1% throughout the half term, compared to 4% in the North West on May 27.