THE council has been in talks with school and colleges after the borough's absence rate amid the pandemic was among the highest in England towards the end of last year.

Pupils in Oldham missed the equivalent of 329,136 days of in-person education between September and December for this reason, Department for Education figures show.

That was an absence rate of 12.3 per cent – among the highest in England – and equivalent to roughly eight days per pupil.

Cabinet member for education and skills at the council, Cllr Shaid Mushtaq, said: “During a higher than average infection rate in the autumn term, we did unfortunately see an impact on our school and college attendances and we raised our concerns about the disproportionate impact of this with the Secretary of State for Education back in January when he met with Oldham representatives.

“As ever, the importance of our young people’s education is paramount and we have been working hard throughout the pandemic to support our educational settings, especially in regards to infection control which has had a generally positive impact on attendance.

“This has and continues to include support in managing coronavirus outbreaks, advice on testing, use of local vaccination spare capacity, support with mental wellbeing and with school transport arrangements.

“Since the reopening of our schools and colleges this spring, we have also been running a campaign involving back to school messaging for parents and carers, targeted local communications, multi-agency collaboration on vulnerable children and revised procedures for children stuck abroad.

“We have consulted with schools and colleges on improving attendance and recovering lost learning and will be working with them on their plans over the coming year.”