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More than one million children in England were off school last week due to coronavirus-related reasons, official figures show.

It is a new record high since schools reopened in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Data released by the Department for Education shows around 14.3% of all pupils in state-funded schools were absent from class on 15 July – a total of 1.05 million.

This is up from 11.2% on 8 July and 8.5% on 1 July.

Of these, 773,700 pupils were self-isolating due to possible contact with a case of coronavirus from inside school, while 160,300 pupils after possibly coming into contact with a COVID-19 case outside school.

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A total of 47,200 pupils had a confirmed case of coronavirus, and 34,800 pupils were absent as a result of COVID school closures.

Around 34,500 pupils had a suspected case of coronavirus, the data showed.

Meanwhile, an estimated 6.6% of teachers and school leaders were absent due to COVID on 15 July, an increase from 8 July (5.4%) and 1 July (4.2%).

For teaching assistants and other staff, the proportion was estimated to be 6.4% on 15 July, up from 5.2% on 8 July and 3.9% on 1 July.

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COVID-19: School bubbles burst

DfE figures also show that almost one in four pupils were absent from state-funded schools in England on 15 July.

This includes all absences, not just those due to COVID.

Total pupil attendance was 76.7% on 15 July, compared with 80.4% on 8 July and 83.4% on 1 July.

In primary schools, pupil attendance was 82.8% on 15 July, while for secondary schools it was 67.3%.

Reacting to the figures, Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “The Conservatives have abandoned the nation’s children with no action taken to turn the tide on rising cases in schools.

“Parents and schools have been crying out for help, but the Conservatives have washed their hands of their responsibility to keep children learning.

“The government must take action to keep children learning for the last week of term, and ensure that by September schools have the support they need to avoid further disruption to children’s education.”

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Schools rescue package ‘completely inadequate’

MP Munira Wilson, health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said the country was “in the midst of an education crisis which is worsening by the day”.

“The prime minister needs to act today on this if schools are to return in autumn,” she said.

“He must act without delay to protect millions of children’s mental health and wellbeing. As he told the country last night – If not now, then when?”

Earlier this month, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the school bubble system is being scrapped in England and only those who test positive for COVID-19 will have to self-isolate.

From 16 August pupils will no longer have to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone who tests positive.

Schools will also no longer need to stagger start and finish times, and children who are contacted by Track and Trace as being a contact of someone who has tested positive will be advised to take a PCR test.

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‘Invincible’ all-girl football team goes whole season unbeaten – in boys’ league

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'Invincible' all-girl football team goes whole season unbeaten - in boys' league

An all-girl team has become football’s latest “invincibles” by going unbeaten all season – while playing in a boys’ league.

Queens Park Ladies under-12s finished top of division three of the Bournemouth Youth Football League, with 18 wins, four draws and no defeats.

They dominated the 11 boys’ teams in the league, scoring 61 goals and conceding only 11.

By the time they had played all their matches, they had amassed 58 points, 16 more than the second-placed team, which had two games still to play.

To make their triumph all the sweeter, they had to overcome initial resistance from county FA bosses, who initially told them they would have to play in a girls’ competition.

Pic: Queens Park Ladies
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The under-12s team celebrates winning the league. Pic: Queens Park Ladies

Manager Toby Green was convinced his team was good enough to play against boys every week and the players, who train twice a week, have proved him right on the pitch.

Next season, the girls will be promoted to the under-13s second division.

They topped the league away against Moordown & Southbourne several weeks ago but clinched the “invincibles” title last weekend with a 3-0 win against Lymington Town.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Green said: “The girls have done really, really well. They’ve worked so hard all season, not just in the games, but in their training as well.

“They have been really disciplined… they deserve it.”

Pic: Queens Park Ladies
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Pic: Queens Park Ladies

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Mr Green said securing the league title with a 3-0 away win against a team that had won six games in a row was one of the highlights of the season.

“We’ve really had to dig in, particularly away from home,” he said.

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Four of the girls in the 14-strong squad have been playing together since they were five years old.

Mr Green started the team when his daughter Olivia told him she wanted to play football. He had already coached his older daughter as the only girl in a boys’ team and decided this time he would put together a girls’ team, but wanted them to play in the boys’ league.

The team hopes to inspire more young girls to get involved in football.

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‘Give us a future’: Anger as residents still not back in homes six months after Storm Babet

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'Give us a future': Anger as residents still not back in homes six months after Storm Babet

It’s been six months since Storm Babet battered the UK but many communities are still picking up the pieces.

The storm, which hit last October, caused devastating flooding, widespread power cuts and left seven people dead.

In Catcliffe, a village near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, more than 200 homes were evacuated when water levels reached over six feet high.

And while the water has gone, its impact is still being felt.

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October 2023: Storm Babet submerged hundreds of homes

The residents of Sheffield Lane were among those forced to flee – and most of them still aren’t back in their homes.

Instead, they’re still staying with family or living in hotels while they wait for their properties to be repaired.

Chris Lloyd was led to safety in a raft by firefighters when his home became submerged by fast-rising waters. His property was so badly damaged that he won’t be back in it until June.

He says flood-hit communities feel totally forgotten.

Catcliffe resident Chris Lloyd
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Catcliffe resident Chris Lloyd

“Do something, tell us something,” he says in a message to authorities.

“Give us something to reduce the amount of water that could potentially come in. I’ve said it a million times, but try and give the people of Catcliffe a future.”

Across the road at Jack’s Theatre School, the Saturday morning toddler group is oblivious to the stress and strain caused by the storm.

It took weeks for the historic building to dry out and the school relied on the help of dozens of volunteers to clean up the dirt and debris before they could return to the premises in February.

Flood damage in Catcliffe last October . Pic: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
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Flood damage in Catcliffe last October. Pic: PA

For staff and students, the show must go on, but there’s always the worry this could happen again.

Teacher Mia Mottram says: “Every time there’s heavy rain, I’m sat at home thinking I hope it’s not raining in Catcliffe because if it’s heavy again… it’s awful having to think like that.

“We know a lot of the children on this road and it was heartbreaking to think it was their homes that had been destroyed.”

There are concerns the UK is lagging behind when it comes to proactive steps to protect people and homes from extreme rainfall.

Baroness Brown, deputy chair of the UK Committee on Climate Change, says: “I don’t know how much more of a wakeup call we need from the climate.”

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Flooding minister Robbie Moore has called for local authorities to be careful when considering housing applications and make sure homes aren’t being built on floodplains.

“From my point of view, I want to be making sure the government… is putting as much money as possible into flood alleviation measures,” he says.

Meanwhile, communities such as the one in Catcliffe are trying to rebuild their homes and lives – all while fearing they won’t be properly protected when the next storm arrives.

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Former model almost died trying to cure cancer with juice diet

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Former model almost died trying to cure cancer with juice diet

A former model who almost died trying to cure her cancer with a juice diet has warned others against “cutting out” traditional medical advice and trying to source alternative information online.

Irena Stoynova forked out £2,000 on juicers and would spend up to three hours a day preparing liquid meals for the next day, believing it would clear her of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The 39-year-old was diagnosed in June 2021 when medics recommended that she receive conventional treatment, but she “shut them out” after watching people “talk about the success rate of alternative therapies online”.

Ms Stoynova was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma  in June 2021. Pic: PA
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Ms Stoynova was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in June 2021. Pic: PA

Ms Stoynova, from Crondall in Hampshire, said she took to a juice diet for two-and-a-half years, but also tried a raw-food diet, intermittent fasting, boiling herbs and special teas.

She said that she was advised to start chemotherapy, but she turned to the internet to find alternative advice and “everything started from there”.

She said she listened to one man with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media who claimed the body could “heal itself” through a radical lifestyle and diet change.

Ms Stoynova lost 20kg as a result of her holistic approach to cancer. Pic: PA
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Ms Stoynova said she lost 20 kilograms as a result of her holistic approach to cancer. Pic: PA

Ms Stoynova said she became a “fanatic” of the various diets and holistic therapies she followed, adding: “It was like tunnel vision.

“I didn’t stop, I was just so weak, I had sleep deprivation and hallucinations. I didn’t even have the strength to open the door for the delivery man.

“I couldn’t breathe because there was fluid on my lungs, I lost about 20 kilograms because of the dieting.”

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Doctors said Ms Stoynova was on the verge of death when she was taken to Frimley Park Hospital by ambulance in May last year.

She was told by doctors she would likely die without treatment for her cancer – which was stage three – but Ms Stoynova continued to refuse for a number of days before finally agreeing to receive chemotherapy.

Medics described “frustrating” conversations with her but eventually, after 10 days in hospital, she agreed to start chemotherapy.

The 39-year-old did a juice diet for two-and-a-half years, but also tried a raw diet, intermittent fasting, boiling herbs and special teas. Pic: PA
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Ms Stoynova is now in remission after having chemotherapy. Pic: PA

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Ms Stoynova, who is now in remission, added: “I now say to people that the side effects from chemotherapy are a piece of cake compared to the side effects that I got from trying the holistic treatment.”

She added: “What I would say is it’s great to have beliefs, it’s great if they’re backed by science, and please don’t cut off your consultants.

“I cut off consultants and everything connected with standard medicine and I almost lost my life.”

Dr Clare Rees, consultant haematologist at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is an extreme scenario and genuinely in the first 24 hours of Irena’s admission, I was unclear whether she would survive this or not.

“But the problem is that misinformation often spreads faster than the truth and obviously, if someone’s given the option of juice versus tablets or chemotherapy and injecting drugs into their bodies, you can see why they would prefer to do some of it if it will give them the same outcome – but the problem is that is not evidence-based practice.

“We always encourage people to go to Lymphoma Action or Macmillan Cancer Support for genuine information.”

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