THOUSANDS of pupils in Gwent missed school last week, as the latest figures for absence in Wales show attendance is lower than it was 12 months ago.

Across Wales, the latest figures show an average of 85 per cent of pupils were in attendance at their school last week.

Figures for Gwent show attendance was roughly the same, from 89.5 per cent in Monmouthshire to 83.1 per cent in Caerphilly.

This week, the Welsh Government announced changes to testing for older students, in a bid to give "additional reassurance" to pupils and parents who may still be worried about the spread of Covid-19 in schools.

The latest figures show coronavirus is still having a significant impact on the amount of schoolwork that pupils are missing this term.

While the national figure may not sound very big – across Wales, 2.3 per cent of pupils are absent for Covid-related reasons – this still equates to more than 16,000 missed sessions in the last week alone, either because pupils were learning remotely or because their school had told them to isolate.

And those figures do not include the number of pupils who have caught the virus. While this figure includes general illnesses, and not just Covid-19, there were more than 58,000 missed sessions in Wales last week due to pupil sickness.


From Monday, secondary school and college students will be expected to take daily lateral flow tests if someone in their household tests positive. The new policy is designed to reduce disruption caused by the virus, by minimising the chance of someone bringing Covid-19 into the classroom with them, and potentially infecting other people.

“Changes introduced to testing in secondary schools will give families, staff and learners a level of reassurance," a Welsh Government spokesman told the Argus on Friday.

Other safeguards announced this week include a new requirement that education staff who have isolated must produce a negative PCR test result before they return to work – this is something that health and social care workers have been asked to do for some time.

At the same time, plans to vaccinate younger teenagers should mean that everyone aged 12-15 years old will have been offered a jab by the end of the October half-term holiday.

There are now hopes the impact of coronavirus on education is levelling off after a disruptive few weeks.

“Attendance was higher this week when compared to last week, and the latest data suggests numbers of cases in those aged under 19 could be starting to level off," the Welsh Government spokesman said. "We will continue to closely monitor the data and work to ensure as many pupils as possible attend school or college safely.”

And the government is wary of reintroducing punishments for absence while Covid-19 is so widespread.

Councils have powers to consider truancy enforcement as a "last resort" when other attempts to improve attendance have been "exhausted".

“Under the current circumstances, our view remains that punitive measures such as fines are not appropriate," the Welsh Government spokesman said. "This is with the exception of a small number of cases relating to persistent absence which are unrelated to Covid-19, or where there are concerns about the welfare of the child. In these cases, we expect that extensive efforts have been made to re-engage with the family.”