As many as 761,000 students were self-isolating last Thursday over a potential contact with a case of Covid-19, according to Department for Education (DfE) estimates.
Thousands more were off school with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus, or because their schools had to close.
In total, up to 876,000 students – between 9 and 11 per cent – did not attend their state-funded school on 19 November due to Covid-related reasons, according to the DfE figures.
Around 36 per cent of state schools had one or more student in self-isolation last Thursday, after potentially coming into contact with a coronavirus case inside school, the data showed.
This figure was 73 per cent for state secondary schools– up from 64 per cent the week before.
Meanwhile, it was estimated around one quarter of schools had 30 or more pupils self-isolating last Thursday – when the latest available data is from – due to a potential contact with a Covid-19 case in the school.
Attendance in state schools dropped for the second week in a row, according to the DfE figures, which showed around 83 per cent of state school pupils going to school on 19 November – down from 86 per and 89 per cent the two weeks before.
The DfE said the fall in attendance was “mainly due to the continued increase in the number of pupils self-isolating”.
Geoff Barton from the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: “Nearly three-quarters of secondary schools and almost a third of primary schools have had to send home pupils because of the impact of coronavirus according to these latest statistics.
“The reality behind these figures is that many schools are experiencing disruption on a monumental scale and are desperately trying to cling on to the end of term.”
The ASCL general secretary said the union supports the “priority of keeping schools open” – as the government has done during England’s second lockdown – but called for “flexibility” to use rota systems. “The fact is that the current disruption already amounts to many children rotating between school and home because of Covid protocols,” Mr Barton added.
A DfE spokesperson said it was a “national priority to keep education settings open full-time”.
“Schools, colleges and early years settings across the country have worked extremely hard to remain open, implementing safety measures and scaling up remote education provision for those children who are self-isolating,” they added. “Thanks to the dedication of staff, at least 99 per cent of schools have been open each week since the start of term.”
The DfE spokesperson said: “Everyone must continue to play their part in driving down cases across society, helping keep education open, in light of the damage of closures to children’s education, development and mental health highlighted by the Chief Medical Officer.”