Southwark second highest in country for Covid-19 pupil absences before Christmas

Nearly ten per cent of children were absent from schools in Southwark because of Covid-19 on December 16, the latest figures available, the government has said.

With 9.6 per cent of students missing, Southwark was the local authority with the second-highest number of Covid absences in schools, behind Harrow, where 10.8 of children could not come in that day because of the virus.

The figures were released by the Department for Education (DfE) as a snapshot look at Covid absences, so is not a comprehensive picture of the problems schools have faced. But it gives an idea of the disruption the pandemic is still causing for students and teachers in our borough.

Nine of the top ten boroughs for Covid school absences were in London. This is unsurprising: the capital was the eye of the storm of the Omicron wave of the pandemic just before Christmas.

Southwark calls for government to put in air filters in schools across the UK to help stop Covid spread

Southwark Council is campaigning for the government to install air filtration systems in all schools in the country, with a cost they estimate at £200 million.

Jasmine Ali, the council’s head of education and children’s services, said in a letter to government education secretary Nadhim Zahawi that his target of 7,000 systems was “insufficient”.

“Opening windows will help, but not all classrooms have windows that open, and in the cold weather it will not always be possible to open windows.”

It comes after a “terrifying” incident where Cllr Ali’s own ten-year-old daughter was hospitalised with the symptoms of the post-Covid condition Paediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS) before Christmas, although a diagnosis was inconclusive.