At least 770 school pupils were absent in Wirral on just one day before the Christmas break because of coronavirus, estimates suggest.

The latest snapshot figures released by the Department for Education estimate that 776 pupils in state-funded Wirral schools were absent because of Covid-19 on December 16 – 3.1% of all those in schools which responded to the survey.

Of them, 641 were off because of a confirmed or suspected case of the virus.

Natalie Perera, chief executive of the EPI think tank, 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.”

A further 64 pupils were absent due to attendance restrictions in their school, nine pupils were required to remain at home or isolate in line with government guidance, and 62 were isolating for other reasons.

Including absences for non Covid-related reasons, 87.3% of Wirral pupils were attending class that day, in the 62 (50%) schools which responded.

This was down from 89.2% on December 9.

Perera added that staff shortages are also likely to persist for some time due to the high level of infection in the general population.

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

In Wirral, 4% of teachers were off – up from 2.2% a week previously, and also the highest proportion yet.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The challenges posed by having so many staff absent will continue to put schools and colleges under severe pressure.