More than 22,000 children were absent from school for reasons related to coronavirus on a single day last week.
Figures released by the Scottish Government showed that 3.61% of schoolchildren across Scotland were absent last Wednesday for reasons including Covid-19 symptoms.
Other reasons were positive test results, self-isolation, quarantining or parents not sending them to school against public health guidance.
The data was released after it emerged there was a surge in tests for children, with 17,500 children tested during the first full week of term. Only 49 – 0.3% – of those had the virus.
As common colds and other bugs rear their heads now children are back in class, there are concerns that pupils have been sent home with symptoms other than those associated with the virus and that parents are panicking over simple sniffles.
No local authority breakdown of the absence figures was provided, but Angus Council said attendance at its primary schools dropped to 95.95% in the first full week of term, compared to 97.06% during the same period last year.
Perth and Kinross Council said its schools had had a “slight increase” in absence rates.
Fife Council and Dundee City Council have been asked for their figures.
Parents group UsForThem Scotland claimed pupils were being forced to self-isolate.
Coordinator Jo Bisset said: “We are concerned that the ongoing disruption to pupils’ education is going to have a huge impact on pupils’ educational attainment.
“We would like to highlight the risk to senior school pupils sitting exams in 2021.
“It is clear that some pupils are going to be affected by repeated school closures and enforced self-isolation which means that these pupils will be justifiably angry when their exam results are badly affected.
“We must make sure schools stay open and only unwell pupils are kept out of school.”
Professor Jason Leitch, national clinical adviser, wrote to parents on Monday to spell out the difference between symptoms of the common cold and coronavirus.
The main symptoms of the virus are a new continuous cough, a fever or high temperature and a loss or change in the sense of smell and taste.
To continue to stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives, there are 5 things we all still need to do.
Remember FACTS for a safer Scotland.
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) July 10, 2020
Professor Leitch said: “Following the return of schools after a prolonged break, it is common for colds and similar viral infections to circulate.
“In many cases, children will be well enough to attend school and continue their learning with little or no interruption to their education.
“In other cases, for instance where they have quite a heavy cold, they may need to take a day or two off to recover.
“This is not the case for children and young people with potential Covid-19 symptoms, they are required to self-isolate and seek a test though nhs.inform.scot or by calling 0800 028 2816.”
He said if a child has no Covid-19 symptoms but has “cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose” they do not need a test and can go to school if well enough to do so.
In an exclusive interview last week, diseases expert Professor Hugh Pennington told us parents must use their common sense.
He said: “Do you keep your kid off school because they have a slightly runny nose? No. A runny nose is not a symptom of Covid.
“If you have red eyes that’s not a symptom of Covid either.
“Clearly, if they have Covid-like symptoms, the persistent cough that’s not going away, a fever or the loss of taste or smell, you would ask for a test.”