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Attendance rates during lockdown are placing schools under ‘tremendous pressure’

Schools have been placed under ‘tremendous pressure’ as a result of attendance rates being much higher in the current national lockdown than in the first lockdown in March 2020.

Department for Education statistics reveal that:

- Attendance rates were 21% in state-funded primary schools on 13 January in comparison to 4% between March and May 2020.

- In state-funded secondary schools, 5% of pupils were attending last week compared to 1% between March and May.

- There were 30% of children attending state-funded special schools in January in contrast to 8% in March to May 2020.
he figures also show that approximately 34% of all pupils with an EHCP on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 13 January and approximately 40% of all pupils with a social worker on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 13 January.

Around 709,000 children of critical workers were in attendance on 13 January representing 72% of all pupils in attendance.

Schools were asked to provide on-site education for vulnerable children and children of critical workers only from 5 January, while the majority of pupils were asked to stay at home in response to COVID-19 and learn at home. Children who do not have access to a laptop of device at home can attend school. Teachers are providing online learning for pupils learning at home.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Government statistics confirm that school attendance is much higher than during the first lockdown. This has put schools under tremendous pressure as they have to juggle face-to-face teaching for those in school with remote education for those at home. It has also raised concerns about how many children it is safe to have in schools during a time in which the Prime Minister has advised people to stay at home and save lives. We still haven’t had a clear answer from the government on this crucial question.

“Another set of government statistics shows the number of laptops and tablets delivered to schools. While we are very pleased with the progress that is now being made on this issue, the frustration is that we are nearly a year into the crisis, and deep into a second period of restricted school opening, and it has still not been fully resolved. Even now, we are not convinced that the government fully understands the need that exists both in terms of devices and connectivity. It did not get to grips with this issue early enough, and it has been playing catch-up ever since.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The number of pupils eligible to go to school and colleges is higher than in the previous lockdown but even given the increase in student numbers staff attendance rates could be much lower. More can be done to further the government's aim of driving down infection rates by ensuring staff work at home wherever possible.

“We still regularly hear of schools expecting staff to teach remotely in empty classrooms or attend meetings which could happen online. Government guidance says that people should work from home unless absolutely necessary to be in work. This message needs to be adhered to in schools and colleges as much as in other workplaces,” she added.

The government statistics also estimate that 566,000 children were attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 14 January – about 38% of the number of children who usually attend childcare in term time. However, due to many children attending early years settings on a part-time basis, the DfE noted that it would not expect all children to be in attendance on the day of the data collection. On a typical day in the Spring term the expected attendance would be 1,052,000, due to different and part-time patterns of childcare during the week. Therefore it is estimated that the 566,000 children currently attending early years settings is approximately 54% of the usual daily level.

Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

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