Nine in 10 pupils back but schools leader warns ‘we’re not out of woods’

Between 96pc and 97pc primary pupils returned to Norfolk schools, which is above average for a normal school day.

Between 96pc and 97pc primary pupils returned to Norfolk schools, which is above average for a normal school day. - Credit: PA

A headteachers’ leader has warned that "we are not out of the woods yet" despite nearly nine in 10 pupils having attended schools since they began to fully reopen last week.

Tens of thousands of pupils in Norfolk began returning to class last week after months of remote education.

About 89pc of secondary school pupils were in class on March 15 - a week after secondary schools began to stagger the return of pupils for mass testing, Department for Education (DfE) analysis shows.

Attendance in primary schools began at 96pc at the start of last week, but it fell to 94pc on March 15.

Norfolk County Council revealed that attendance in primary schools across the county in the first week back had been between 96pc and 97pc, which is above average for a normal school day.

Secondary schools were given flexibility to stagger the return while pupils undertook Covid-19 tests on site.

Secondary schools were given flexibility to stagger the return while pupils undertook Covid-19 tests on site. - Credit: PA

Secondary schools were given flexibility to stagger the return of their pupils last week, as these students are being asked to take voluntary Covid-19 tests on site as part of their return to class.


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Overall, attendance in state schools steadily increased from 68pc on March 8 to 89pc on Thursday March 11.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union. - Credit: Archant

But former local head Geoff Barton, who is now general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union, said attendance levels will "be bumpy" as pupils testing positive for Covid-19, and their close contacts, are still being sent home to self-isolate.

Eleven out of Norfolk’s 422 schools reported positive Covid tests in their first week back from lockdown, the county council revealed.

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The DfE  estimates that approximately 1% of all state school pupils did not attend school for Covid-related reasons on Thursday last week.

Schools have implemented extra hygiene and cleaning measures as pupils returned after lockdown.

Schools have implemented extra hygiene and cleaning measures as pupils returned after lockdown. - Credit: PA

Mr Barton said: "Secondary schools have put in a Herculean effort to provide on-site Covid tests to returning pupils and deserve huge credit for setting up what are essentially medical facilities.

"However, we must sound a note of caution over what attendance levels will look like for what remains of this term, because we are picking up reports of positive Covid cases and close contacts having to be sent home to self-isolate.

"It will continue to be bumpy, and we are not out of the woods yet."

Social distancing signage on view as children return to school.

Social distancing signage on view as children return to school. - Credit: PA

The latest data follows attendance figures that showed pupils attending Norfolk’s schools fell by more than two thirds either side of the Christmas holidays, but rose throughout the lockdown school closures.

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