How chaotic January return saw Norfolk school attendance plummet

The number of school attending Norfolk schools plummeted either side of the Christmas holidays but rose again in lockdown.

The number of pupils attending Norfolk schools plummeted either side of the Christmas holidays but rose again in lockdown. - Credit: PA

The number of pupils attending Norfolk’s schools fell by more than two thirds either side of the Christmas holidays, figures have revealed.

Almost nine in 10 students were in school during the final week of the autumn term, but this plunged to just 12pc in the first week back in January, attendance data from the Department for Education (DfE) shows.

While 80,240 pupils were in classes in December only 12,877 attended during the first days back in January amid concern over rising Covid cases.

The vast majority of students relied on remote learning from January 4 to March 8.

The vast majority of students relied on remote learning from January 4 to March 8. - Credit: PA

The figures reflect the chaos that followed the festive break when all primary schools had been expected to reopen on January 4, but more than 100 in Norfolk stayed closed and others saw many children kept at home.

Meanwhile 50 Norfolk teachers and school leaders were unable to teach due to a confirmed case of Covid and 10 due to a suspected case, while 343 teaching assistants and other staff were self-isolating. 

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced lockdown just days after the chaotic January return to school. 

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced lockdown just days after the chaotic January return to school. - Credit: PA

Later that week prime minister Boris Johnson announced that lockdown meant that schools and colleges would be closed to most pupils until at least the February half term.

From January 4 to March 8, schools were closed to all pupils except the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils.

However the DfE data reveals that 13,308 pupils - higher than the previous week - attended school in Norfolk during the subsequent first week of lockdown, rising to 13,705 the following week and 14,578 in the last week of January. 

Attendance in primary schools was behind rising numbers of pupils in lockdown.

Attendance in primary schools was behind rising numbers of pupils in lockdown. - Credit: PA

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The rise was driven by primary schools, with attendance in secondary schools has remained flat at five per cent.

Former Suffolk headteacher Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union, said: “Huge credit should go to schools for continuing to run face-to-face education for many children of key workers and vulnerable children during the lockdown, while also providing remote education to all other children.

“The number of children on site was much higher in many schools than in the first lockdown.”

Former Suffolk headteacher Geoff Barton, now general secretary at the Association of School and Coll

Former Suffolk headteacher Geoff Barton, now general secretary at the Association of School and College Leader Picture: DANNY HEWITT - Credit: DANNY HEWITT

Meanwhile  the proportion of pupils with an EHCP (Education and Health Care Plan), which means they need extra support, attending school fell from 78pc in December to 31pc in the most recent set of figures, the last week in January.

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