A record 839,700 pupils are off school as a result of Covid, up from 641,200 the previous week, and a record high since classes went back in March.

This includes 624,000 children who have been forced to self-isolate because of a case at school, a 32 per cent per cent increase in the space of a week, according to the latest official data.

Figures published today by the Department for Education (DfE) show that 11.2 per cent of all children in England were not at school last Thursday due to a Covid-related reason, up from 8.5 per cent the week before.

On June 28, The Telegraph launched a campaign calling on ministers to put children first as the country recovers from its Covid lockdowns, with action to bring an end to the disruption in schools.

The Children’s Commissioner, the Archbishop of York and dozens of prominent Tory MPs have backed the campaign, urging the Government to axe the bubbles policy in schools. The policy has led to whole year groups being sent home to self-isolate for 10 days because one of their classmates tested positive.

Campaign for Children: Education: The days lost

Ministers had originally indicated that they intended to scrap bubbles in time for the new academic year in September. But after coming under intense pressure over the policy, this will be brought forward to July 19 so children can attend summer camps and activities without the restrictions in place.

Detailed guidance published last week by the Department for Education (DfE) said schools "may wish" to continue with bubbles until the end of the summer term.

It also said it "may become necessary to reintroduce bubbles" for a temporary period if there is a Covid outbreak. Schools are told to contact their local public health teams to report a potential outbreak if they have several confirmed cases within 14 days.

The guidance says any decision to recommend the reintroduction of bubbles should not be taken lightly and should "take account of the detrimental impact they can have on the delivery of education".

Campaign for children (Day 5)

It adds that a student who has Covid symptoms can be refused entry to school if a headteacher believes that is "necessary" to protect other pupils and staff.

There are now 35,000 children who have tested positive for the virus, up from 28,000 the week before, the DfE data shows.

Another 39,000  children are suspected of having the virus and 123,000 are self-isolating because of contacts outside the school gates. 

And 18,700 are at home because their entire school has closed due to Covid, up from 18,200 last week.

Headteachers said the latest figures reveal the scale of the "crisis" in schools caused "directly" by bubbles where teachers are required to send home large numbers of healthy children to self-isolate.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The government’s decision to end this disruptive policy when the autumn term begins now heralds another huge set of challenges for education settings.

"They need substantial support, both financially and practically, in setting up on-site asymptomatic testing for students when they return in September, installing high-quality air ventilation systems and in having robust outbreak management plans ready."

He said that all these measures may not be needed if children are vaccinated, adding that the "deafening silence" from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation on the issue is "mystifying".