Government survey shows a 10th of Hertfordshire children were in school before holidays

But Hertfordshire County Council's analysis shows over 99 per cent of schools were open

Thursday, 13th August 2020, 8:57 am
Updated Thursday, 13th August 2020, 9:00 am

A snapshot school survey carried out by the Government has revealed that just over a 10th of Hertfordshire pupils were in class on one day just before the summer holidays.

But Hertfordshire County Council says its analysis shows that over 99 per cent of all its schools were open on June 8.

Since asking schools to close on March 20 to all but vulnerable children and those of critical workers, the Department of Education conducted a weekly survey of schools, colleges and nurseries to track attendance rates.

School stock photo

The final survey on July 16 shows 57 per cent of schools were open in Hertfordshire with 11 per cent of the area's children present - the national rate for England was 16 per cent.

On July 16 in Hertfordshire, 52 per cent of primary schools were open, compared to 46 per cent of secondary schools – though any which failed to respond to the survey were assumed closed.

Attendance rates that day ranged from 29 per cent in year 6, to 7 per cent in year 12.

The Government asked schools across England to welcome back children in nursery, reception and years 1 and 6, from June 1.

Two weeks later, year 10 and 12 students were allowed in to supplement their learning from home, but numbers were limited to reduce the risk of infection.

Plans for all primary pupils to return were dropped but schools were allowed to make their own decision about admitting more children.

Terry Douris, Cabinet Member for Education, Libraries and Localism said: “We do not recognise your figures. Our analysis shows that over 99 per cent of all our schools were open on 8 June.

"These schools continued to open during the rest of the term; which means the number of children attending schools would’ve been much higher than the DfE survey data.

“According to DfE data, on 16 July, Hertfordshire’s attendance rate for state funded schools was 13.8 per cent across all year groups. Including 21.2 per cent of pupils in primary schools and 62.4 per cent of our primary schools were recorded as open.

"Similarly, 72 per cent of our secondary schools were recorded as open, with 4.6 per cent of students attendance, 64 per cent of our special schools were recorded as open and 88 per cent of our alternative provision providers, with 18.5 per cent and 56.9 per cent attendance respectively.

“It’s important to note that many of our schools had problems completing the DfE attendance portal but were still open, so it is inaccurate to assume that they were closed if they didn’t respond to the survey.

"School leaders and teachers in Hertfordshire have worked tirelessly during the summer term to ensure that all children received the best education possible in what has been an unprecedented and challenging time.”

Natalie Perera, executive director and head of research at the organisation, said getting students back into the classroom in September is vital, but comes with a number of risks, particularly around social distancing.

She added: "Schools will have gained experience from having some pupils present since March, but the reality is the situation next month will be vastly different to what we have seen so far, with an array of additional challenges.

"Big questions remain about the level of risk that school staff, pupils, and their families are being asked to take."

Will Millard, head of engagement at The Centre for Education and Youth, said: "These figures are a stark illustration of just how profoundly children's educations have been hit by the pandemic.

"Far from being a 'great leveller', the virus has hit some areas far harder than others.

"It highlights the enormous challenge schools face as they re-open."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had “no doubt” that schools would be able to re-open, but stressed the need for discipline to prevent the spread of the virus.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has insisted that research showed “little evidence that the virus is transmitted at school”, but Health Minister Edward Argar warned against reading too much into the unpublished work by Public Health England.