To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the spread of the omicron variant of covid-19, what (b) assessment he has made of the potential effect of the spread of the variant on absences from special schools and (b) steps is he taking to ensure students who attend those schools required to isolate are able to access continued learning and support.
6 January 2022
We know that the Omicron variant is spreading quickly, and studies are underway to collect data to help us understand the impact, including for children and young people.
On 9 December, 4.9% of all pupils were absent in all state-funded special schools for reasons related to COVID-19. This represents the total proportion of pupils absent due to all variants of COVID-19. Among those pupils, 0.1% were absent because they were isolating in line with government guidance at the time, including due to being identified as a close contact of a suspected Omicron case.
Since the emergence of Omicron, we have updated the operational guidance for special schools and other specialist settings, which sets out how settings should ensure that pupils and students who are required to isolate are able to access continued learning and support. The guidance is clear that whilst our priority is face-to-face, high quality education for all pupils and students, if they are unable to attend then we expect their education setting to be able to offer them access to high quality remote education.
We recognise that some pupils and students with special needs may need support to access remote education, and so expect schools and colleges to work collaboratively with families so that they can successfully access remote education appropriate for their level of need. Settings should keep in regular contact with children and young people to assess the effectiveness of any remote education.