“These latest statistics back up exactly what we are hearing from schools right across Wales. Many are struggling to even keep their doors open due to severe disruption caused by Covid, with high levels of both pupil and staff absence.
“We are just a matter of a few weeks away from GCSE and A-level students taking exams that will play a pivotal role in shaping their future lives but the level of absence among these young people and, critically, among the teachers whose role it is to prepare them, continues to be very worrying.
“Every single year group across Wales has at least 10% of learners absent but more than a quarter of Year 13 students who are due to sit their A-level exams this summer are missing from the classroom. The picture among GCSE students is equally concerning. This year group has the lowest attendance of all statutory aged learners.
“What these figures do not record is the significant effect that illness among staff is having in our schools and particularly among specialist teachers in subjects such as maths and English. Schools are under severe pressure and the numbers are so high in some that they are having to resort to sending home entire year groups just to remain open with the staff they have available.
“Many are having to rely heavily on supply staff but they are not immune to illness either, making availability patchy to say the least. The knock-on problem for schools is that these staff come at a high cost.
“The Welsh government’s hardship fund is due to come to an end in just over a week’s time and it is crucial that this is extended to give schools the financial support they need to weather an attendance crisis that shows no sign of relenting.”