BRADFORD pupils have more catching up to do than most after the Covid-19 pandemic with almost 600,000 days of face-face teaching lost in the Autumn term.

On average, each student lost seven days of in-person education after having to self-isolate or shield due to coronavirus, according to new figures from the Department for Education (DfE).

There are fears it could exacerbate an already difficult situation in Bradford and leading figures have criticised the Government's pledge of an extra £1.4 billion to help pupils catch-up as not enough.

Schools across England reopened to all year groups from September, with students sent home in bubbles to self-isolate when coronavirus cases were detected.

Pupils across Bradford missed the equivalent of 593,217 days of in-person education between September and December for this reason.

That was an absence rate of 10.6 per cent – among the highest in England.

The figures include state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in the area.

Schools recorded general absence – including when authorised and unauthorised – separately, although this could include a child being ill due to having Covid-19.

The absence rate in Bradford for the autumn term was around 6.2 per cent, which was slightly higher than 5.7 per cent the previous year.

Across England, the overall absence rate for the autumn term was 4.7 per cent – broadly in line with 4.9 per cent a year earlier.

But a further 7 per cent of in-person teaching was missed because of self-isolation or shielding due to Covid-19 – amounting to 33 million days, or five days per pupil.

The rate of unauthorised absence in Bradford's schools was 2.7 per cent during the autumn term, which was just above 2.2 per cent in 2019.

The rate of authorised absence due to sickness, which could include illness due to positive coronavirus cases, was 2.7 per cent – in line with the previous year.

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “The autumn term was an incredibly challenging time for our schools.

"Bradford District had above average rates of Covid-19 for much of that period.

"With high and enduring infection rates in our community, along with a high proportion of multi-generational households, it is unsurprising that we saw above average rates of pupils having to self-isolate following a positive case in school or the community.

“Whenever pupils are required to self-isolate all schools ensure appropriate high-quality remote learning is provided.

“Throughout the pandemic, keeping pupils, staff and their families safe has to be our top priority.

“Schools have already assessed where children are and have ‘catch up’ plans in place to address the fact that some children have missed more schools than others.”

The Government announced yesterday that an extra £1.4 million will top up a fund of £1.7 billion, to be used to offer pupils up to 100 million hours of tuition as part of a national catch-up programme.

But Education Recovery Chief, Sir Kevan Collins, had reportedly called for £15 billion of funding and 100 extra hours of teaching per pupil.

He resigned last night from his position as the Government’s schools coronavirus catch-up tsar and in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson published by the Times Educational Supplement, Sir Kevan, who trained and taught in Bradford, said: “I do not believe it will be possible to deliver a successful recovery without significantly greater support than the Government has, to date, indicated it intends to provide.”

President of the National Education Union (NEU) in Bradford, Ian Murch said: "Well schools certainly need help to help children catch up.

"The most disappointing thing with the Government's announcement is the small amount.

"£50 per pupil, that buys you absolutely nothing - an hour-and-a-half with a tutor, two hours with a tutor."

Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East said yesterday that the funding was "paltry" and has written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

He added: “Children in Bradford catching up on their education also face the additional impact of deprivation and disadvantage, as well as chronic underfunding of Bradford’s schools which means they already underperform their peers in exams both across the region and across the country, which just further shows that today’s announcement won’t go far enough."

Mr Murch said: "It is particularly unfortunate for Bradford that it had some of the biggest impact of Covid on its schools.

"It will make it harder for Bradford to narrow the gap on other places.

"It's but desperately bad as it has made progress, we need to make sure we don't lose that progress."

The Prime Minister has said there will be “more coming through” to support children catching up from missed education during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Johnson said there was no doubt “many kids are incredibly resilient… but a lot of them also need help to catch up”.

He said the fund announced on Wednesday should also “give parents the confidence that their child is going to get particular attention”, as well as “find potential in kids that may be missed in the back of the classroom”.

He added that the Government was also supporting teachers.

“What we want to do is support teachers – who may be brilliant teachers – who need to make a move to being head of sixth form or head of school,” he said.