About a million children in England - one out of every eight pupils - were off school last Thursday, as Covid-related absences rose.
The official figures also show staffing problems worsening, with a quarter of schools seeing teachers and leaders’ absence rates above 15%. Across England as a whole, about 9% of teachers were absent.
Of the one million pupils (12.6%) absent, 415,000 were out of school for Covid-related reasons.
Also on 20 January, 47,000 teachers and school leaders were absent - 3,000 more than two weeks previously - half for Covid-related reasons.
The Department for Education is also launching a consultation on managing school absences, after statistics showed persistent absence is rising.
Mr Zahawi said: “Absence due to Covid is unavoidable, but there are other reasons children miss out on school too.”
Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he …
It seems, however, that getting children back to school always (and unsurprisingly) precipitates a surge in reported COVID cases and classroom absences.