ALMOST 900 children were off school on just one day last month due to Covid-19, the latest estimate suggest, showing the impact of the Omicron variant on education.

The research, by the Education Policy Institute, said the high rate of pupils out of school is an ongoing concern, as higher absence is linked to a higher loss of learning.

The snapshot figures come from the Department of Education, estimated 891 pupils at state schools in the district were absent due to Covid-19 on December 16.

A local union boss has said the picture in Bradford was a lot worse after Christmas than before, and while schools have learned how to cope better with Covid-19 there are some fundamental systems that have still not been provided to cope with the virus.

These figures mean 1.9 per cent of all students at schools which responded to the survey were absent. Of these students, 689 were off because of a confirmed or suspected case of the virus.

A further 140 pupils were off due to attendance restrictions in their school, 17 were required to remain at home or isolate in line with government guidance, and a further 45 were isolating for other reasons.

Including non Covid-related absences, 11.6 per cent - more than one in 10 - students in Bradford were off school that day; however, the Department of Education said just under half of schools in the district responded.

The number of Covid school absences in Bradford was almost half the figure across the whole of England reflecting the delay in the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant in reaching Bradford.

Ian Murch, chair of the National Education Union's Bradford branch, said the number of absences was far higher after Christmas, reflecting the more widespread picture on Omicron in Bradford.

He said: "There have been schools where there's been a lot more than two per cent of students off since term started.

"Some schools have a couple of staff off, one school had 36 off at one point, it's dependent on the area. Absences went up after Christmas but seem to be dropping again now.

"This was nowhere near the worst it's been during the pandemic but it was getting to a point where significant numbers of children were not being taught in the normal way.

"We should be over the peak now, no one wants children at home and schools have tried to carry on as normal but at times it can be difficult."

While numbers have bene high, schools are a lot better placed to handle these issues now than 12 months ago, but they are still missing vital support which was promised last term by Government, Mr Murch said.

"Schools have learned better how to keep running as normal as possible, but there are still schools without CO2 monitors in every classroom, and without air filtration systems.

"They would make a big difference, you wouldn't have to have windows open making everyone freezing, but who knows if or when they'll ever arrive."

With rumours of easing of restrictions on the horizon, with the expiry date for the current rules coming on January 26, the binning of rules such as face masks may make lessons less disruptive, but Mr Murch warned rules should only be lifted if that's what the science suggests.

"Only if it's the judgement of the scientists, not if it's just being made purely for political reasons," he continued.

"The Prime Minister is trying to appease his MPs but we have to listen to scientists, we've seen over and over again what happens if restrictions are lifted too soon."

Natalie Perera, chief executive of the EPI thinktank, added: “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."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “School staff are working tirelessly to ensure classrooms are safe, and it is thanks to their efforts that 99.9 per cent of schools are open once again and millions of pupils have returned to face-to-face learning after the Christmas break.

“We are supporting schools through encouraging former teachers to come back to classrooms and extending the Covid workforce fund for schools facing the greatest staffing and funding pressures.”