AS MANY as 540 school pupils were absent from Bolton schools the day before the Christmas break, research suggests.

Figures released by the Department for Education estimate that 547 pupils in the borough's state-funded schools were absent because of Covid-19 on December 16, coming to a total of 2.1 per cent of all those in schools which responded to the survey.

Research by the Education Policy Institute concluded that of them, 480 were off because of a confirmed or suspected case of the virus.

EPI chief executive Natalie Perera said: "Our research has shown an association between pupil absence and higher learning losses, so the high rate of pupils out of school continues to be a concern.

"The Government must closely follow pupil absences this term and consider whether additional financial support to help pupils avoid further learning losses is needed."

On December 16, 3 per cent of teachers and school leaders were off because of Covid-19 in Englandm also the most since term began.

In Bolton, 3.4% of teachers were off up from 1.9 per cent a week previously, and also the highest proportion yet.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "School staff are working tirelessly to ensure classrooms are safe, and it is thanks to their efforts that 99.9 per cent of schools are open once again and millions of pupils have returned to face-to-face learning after the Christmas break.

"We are supporting schools through encouraging former teachers to come back to classrooms and extending the Covid workforce fund for schools that are facing the greatest staffing and funding pressures."