Almost half of pupils were off school towards the end of term in parts of the country worst hit by Covid isolations, official figures show.
In Middlesbrough, 47.6 per cent of pupils were absent from the classroom on July 15, while 44 per cent were absent in Sunderland and 41.5 per cent in South Tyneside, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).
In Middlesbrough, just over half (27 per cent) of the absences on July 15 were down to Covid. Meanwhile, Covid-related reasons accounted for 36.2 per cent of absences in Sunderland and 34.9 per cent in South Tyneside.
Elsewhere in the country absence rates were much lower, during the final week of term with fewer than 15 per cent of children off school in Dorset, Slough, West Berkshire and Norfolk.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the figures should be a “wake up call” for ministers about the level of disruption children in some parts of the country have faced.
“It is not fair that children in a certain region or school have lost out on so much learning compared to peers in another region or school,” he said.
“There is an incredibly important job that needs to be done so those young people do not feel they will be left behind.
“Lots of those regions in normal times were feeling forgotten from the sense of education importance and Covid has exposed the gaps very bleakly between the educationally advantaged and disadvantaged.”