AT LEAST 1,300 school pupils were absent in Somerset 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 1,366 pupils in state-funded Somerset schools were absent because of Covid-19 on December 16 – 4% of all those in schools which responded to the survey.

Of them, 963 were off because of a confirmed or suspected case of the virus.

A further 201 pupils were absent due to attendance restrictions in their school, 48 pupils were required to remain at home or isolate in line with government guidance, and 154 were isolating for other reasons.

Including absences for non Covid-related reasons, 86% of Somerset pupils were attending class that day, in the 145 (54%) schools which responded.

This was down from 88.5% on December 9.

Across England, 3.7% of pupils were absent for coronavirus-related reasons on December 16 – the most since the start of the school year in September.

Natalie Perera, chief executive of the EPI think tank, said: “Our research has shown an association between pupil absence and higher learning losses, so the high rate of pupils out of school continues to be a concern.

“The Government must closely follow pupil absences this term and consider whether additional financial support to help pupils avoid further learning losses is needed.”

She added that staff shortages are likely to persist for some time due to the high level of infection in the general population.

On December 16, 3% of teachers and school leaders were off because of Covid-19 in England – also the most since term began.

In Somerset, 2.6% of teachers were off – up from 2.3% a week previously, and also the highest proportion yet.