Covid Scotland: Omicron already causing ‘significant’ pupil absence in East Lothian

Schools in East Lothian are already seeing ‘significant’ attendance issues caused by Covid in the run-up to Christmas.

Friday, 17th December 2021, 12:30 pm

Nicola McDowell, the council’s head of education, said the situation in schools is deteriorating following the fast spread of new cases sparked by the Omicron variant.

Four classes are currently closed due to staff absences – three primary school classes and one class at Ross High School’s additional support needs unit in Tranent.

Speaking to a virtual meeting, Mrs McDowell confirmed concerns raised by members that the virus was having a greater impact in the classrooms than has been seen before.

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School attendances are dropping across East Lothian. (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Asked if she expected it to get worse in the New Year she told the committee: “It is already getting worse in terms of the virus.

“We have significant attendance issues at the moment and while there are a number of reasons for pupils not to attend the largest reason is Covid.”

Classes at West Barns, Wallyford and Ormiston Primary Schools are currently closed.

The committee had been hearing an update on the council’s Covid response during the pandemic.

Councillors were told that out of 25 performance indicators used to track how it was doing only two fell below the national average – incoming calls from people needing help from the Test and Protect system and business start-ups.

A report to committee revealed that very few people got in touch asking for support after being asked to self-isolate through Test and Protect with the average number of calls just one a week.

In contrast the number of calls and texts made by the council to check on those self-isolating peaked at around 160 a week in September this year and had fallen to an average of around 60 a week.

The report added: “Very few calls, much lower than the Scottish average, have resulted in requests for support.”

The number of business start-ups in East Lothian had also fallen from 179 in 2019/20 to 62 in 2020/21 and to date this year only 13 had been launched.

Pupil absences over 167 days recorded between August 2020 and October this year showed that for 100 days more than 90 percent attendance rates were recorded.

Attendance fell below 80 percent for three days in the summer however up to date absence rates for this month were not available.

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