ONE in 10 pupils were absent from schools in Worcestershire before the Easter holidays, new figures show.

The Association of School and College Leaders said it is concerned by high absence rates across England and urged the Government to increase investment in services for disadvantaged children most at risk of missing school.

Department for Education figures show that at least 4,083.84 pupils were absent from state-funded schools in Worcestershire in the last week of March, just before the Easter holidays.

That equated to 9.8% of pupils from schools which responded to the survey that week – up from 8.9% in the week to February 10, before half term.

Nationally, 11.4% of pupils were absent before the Easter holidays, up from 9.7% in February.

Pupils can be listed as absent for any reason, including general sickness, contracting Covid-19, isolating as a positive contact, and any other disciplinary issue or unexpected absence.

The latest figures do not specify what proportion of pupils were absent due to Covid-19.

In Worcestershire secondary schools, 11.9% of pupils were absent, more than the 8% in primary schools.

A further 15.3% of pupils did not attend special schools in the area.

The National Association of Head Teachers has criticised the Government's approach to handling Covid-19 in schools, arguing it is attempting to "pretend the pandemic is over".

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: "The 'living with Covid plan' is increasingly looking like an 'ignoring Covid plan' when it comes to schools."

He warned that disruption may continue in the future, and that it is important no pupil is disadvantaged by it.

The Department for Education said it is focused on increasing school attendance to ensure "every child gets the best possible education, no matter whey in the country they live."

Some 9% of teachers and 8.8% of teaching assistants were absent in Worcestershire in the week to March 31.

In Worcestershire, 12.8% of children eligible for free school meals were absent from school before the Easter break.