Around 88 per cent of state school pupils returned to school for the autumn term in England, official figures suggest, the BBC reports.

The 12 per cent absence rate is higher than the usual number of around 5 per cent, but it is not clear whether pupils were off because of Covid outbreaks, fear of returning to school or an unconnected reason.

The Department for Education also estimates that 92 per cent of all state schools in England were fully open and that 99.9 per cent were at least partially open when figures were collected last Thursday.

Since the start of term, there has been outcry from schools and parents as delays to testing have led to whole year groups being sent home.

This week, heads warned education secretary Gavin Williamson that schools were at risk of “grinding to a halt” over the unavailability of tests as staff self-isolated at home.

There have been very few reports of coronavirus cases in private schools, but the Mirror this week revealed that a “year group bubble” had been sent home at Plymouth College after a pupil tested positive.

The paper also reported that Stamford Endowed Schools had confirmed three cases among pupils.

Steve Chalke, head of the Oasis academy trust chain of state schools, said about 1,200 pupils had been sent home across the group.

A survey by the online survey app Teacher Tapp of more than 6,000 teachers suggested 3 per cent of schools had sent home year groups or classes last week and 4 per cent of teachers were self-isolating this week.