A record 111,000 pupils missed school last week because they tested positive for Covid, official figures revealed today.
The number of youngsters absent because they're infected has doubled since mid-September, as coronavirus continues to rip through classrooms.
Department for Education data showed, in total, more than 200,000 children — or 2.6 per cent of pupils — were absent from school in England due to Covid last week.
It comes as Sajid Javid today revealed children will be able to book their vaccines online next week as part of a half-term jabbing blitz.
No10 is desperately trying to boost inoculation rates in youngsters, with just one in thirty 12-15 year olds jabbed in parts of the country.
James Bowen, of the headteachers' union NAHT, said the rise in teachers catching Covid — in many cases from pupils - was causing disruption to classes.
Over 200,000 children were absent from school last due to a Covid related reason, with a record 111,000 off because they tested positive for the virus
The Government has been criticised over the slow rollout of the Covid vaccine to children but the latest figures reveal that the scheme is having mixed success across the country
North and south divide. Scotland is roaring ahead with rolling out the first dose of the Covid vaccine to 12-to-15-year-olds compared to England. All 10 of the best performing areas were north of the border with England hosting the bottom 10, the majority of which are in London
Now more schools reintroduce face masks in face of Covid spikes
A secondary school in Essex has become the latest to bring back Covid restrictions after a surge in Covid cases among pupils and staff.
Thurstable School in Colchester emailed parents yesterday informing them that their children must wear face masks at all times when indoors — even during lessons in classrooms.
There were widespread concerns that masks obstruct communicating and learning during earlier phases of the pandemic.
Assemblies have also been scrapped and moved to 'virtual'.
Rapid testing will be used on-site if staff become worried about a particular group or class.
Headteacher Mr J Ketley said in an email, seen by Essex Live, that the measures will stay in place for two weeks before being reassessed when schools split for half-term.
In his email to parents, the head said: 'We have had a significant increase in the number of positive lateral flow test results this weekend, we have received 51 positive lateral flow tests since Friday.
'We are therefore asking students to wear a face mask in all indoor areas including classrooms for the remainder of this week and the first day back after the half-term break.'
Meanwhile, secondary school pupils in Scotland will continue to wear face coverings in class, according to new guidance from the Scottish Government.
Face coverings in communal areas for secondary pupils and staff, as well as primary staff, will also continue.
The new guidance is contrary to reports last week that the need for face coverings would be dropped when pupils return from the October break.
The measures are being kept in place to buy time to vaccinate more teenagers.
But Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has said the restrictions will be lifted 'at the earliest possible time'.
'If the government does not act now, there is a clear and obvious risk that disruption to education will only get worse as we head into winter,' he said.
'Changes should be made to close contact isolation rules so siblings of those who have tested positive for Covid don't continue to go into school and infect others.'
The Liberal Democrats pointed out the number of pupils now absent due to Covid-related reasons would fill '8,000 classrooms'.
The party's health spokesman Munira Wilson said: 'The government must urgently ramp up vaccinations for 12 to 16-year-olds over the half term holidays.
'Schools have been given the impossible task of keeping children in the classroom whilst also dealing with rising Covid rates.
'As a result, thousands of children are now missing out on vital learning.'
Geoff Barton, of the ASCL teaching union said: 'The rise in staff absence may appear fractional but the reality is that it is now causing real headaches, with staffing problems further disrupting education.
'This is happening despite staff being vaccinated, with the issue exacerbated by an acute shortage of suitably qualified supply staff.'
Other Covid-related absences in the week to October 14 include 81,000 suspected cases, and 16,000 absent due to local restrictions or self-isolation
However, the DfE warned the number of children with the virus in schools was likely much higher because of self-isolation exemptions.
'The vast majority of pupils in state-funded schools are under 18 years and 6 months, and therefore not required to self-isolate if they live in the same household as someone with Covid, or are a close contact of someone with Covid,' it said.
After starting the term with few restrictions, many schools are returning to having pupils wear masks in communal areas and even classrooms.
Random swabbing data suggests around 8 per cent of secondary school pupils were carrying the virus last week. Separate figures show infection rates in children have reached record highs.
The figures were released just as No10 announced that children will be able to book Covid vaccines online from next week.
In addition to announcing the expansion of the online booking system, Mr Javid also called on Britain's youth to step forward and get vaccinated.
'I think it is important anyone who is invited as eligible for a vaccine, including young people, that they do come forward and take up that offer,' he said.
The NHS online booking system for vaccines is currently only available to over-16s.