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School attendance rates rise further

Attendance rates in schools are rising further as the latest government figures show that around 1.2 million children attended school in England last week.

The Department for Education statistics show that attendance in all state schools on 28 January was 14.9%, up from 14.1% the previous week.

Attendance on 28 January was:

- 22% in state-funded primary schools, up from 21% the previous week

- 5% in state-funded secondary schools, which was around the same as the previous week

- 33% in state-funded special schools, which was 30% the previous week.

Approximately 850,000 children of critical workers attended school on 28 January, up from 813,000 on 21 January, which represents 70% of all pupils in attendance.

Around 43% of all pupils with a social worker on roll in state-funded schools were in attendance on 28 January, up from 41% on 21 January and 40% on 13 January.
There were around 36% of all pupils with an EHCP on roll in state-funded schools in attendance on 28 January, up from 35% on 21 January and 34% on 13 January.

The figures estimate that around 626,000 children are currently attending early years childcare settings on Thursday 28 January, which is approximately 59% of the usual daily level.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said: “Whilst discussion of schools ‘reopening’ dominates the headlines, these figures are a timely reminder that schools did not really close in the first place. A significant number of children continue to be taught by their teachers in school every day, while often those same teachers are simultaneously supporting remote learning to those pupils that remain at home.

“Our own survey of school leaders suggests that up to 2,000 schools in England have had over 40% of pupils attending since the start of lockdown. In planning for a return of more pupils to face-to-face education, government should scrutinise the infection rates and transmission within the minority of schools and communities where significant numbers of pupils and parents continue to meet daily. Understanding the level of risk presented by higher numbers of pupils in school would appear key to planning for a safe and sustainable return to school for all pupils,” he added.

Meanwhile public sector union UNISON has said the announcement that schools will not reopen to all until 8 March at the earliest buys valuable time for ministers to work with unions to make sure that when schools do finally open to all children, they stay open.

Offering the vaccine to all school employees as well as a regular system of mass testing of staff and pupils are key to getting schools back to normal, UNISON says.
UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “Everyone wants to see schools fully reopen, but not at the cost of people’s health.

“The government must work with the people on the education frontline – teachers, teaching assistants, caretakers, caterers and all school staff – to ensure safety isn’t sacrificed and the damaging cycle of opening only to close days later is broken,” he concluded.

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

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