Hertfordshire education bosses look to Spring term ‘with some dread’, cllrs told

The operations director gave the update to members of the county council’s overview and scrutiny committee

Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 1:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 1:26 pm

Education officials in Hertfordshire are looking towards the Spring term “with some dread” as the number of Covid-19 cases in schools continue to rise, councillors have been told.

In just the past two weeks there has been at least one case of Covid-19 recorded in EVERY one of the county’s 80 secondary schools.

Eleven secondary schools have recorded 30 or more cases – and a further five have recorded at least 20.

School stock image

Attendance rates in secondary schools across the county are now down to an average of 84 per cent. And that means one in every six pupils – equivalent to five in every class – are absent.

However attendance rates are higher in primary and special schools, running at 91 per cent and 89 per cent.

Operations director Simon Newland gave the update to members of the county council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Friday, December 11.

He told councillors that attendance had ‘clearly deteriorated’ in the county over the past six weeks.

And he reported that an ‘aggregate’ in excess of 10,000 pupil had been asked to self isolate.

But he said schools had had different experiences – suggesting that some schools had ‘hardly been touched’.

“Some of our secondaries have been very heavily impacted – more so than our primary schools. We have in aggregate over the 10,000 pupils out self-isolating.

“Within that there are one or two schools who have barely been touched – so its a very differential experience within the schools community.

“What we do know from our overall infection management and control activities – that’s the corporate activities – is that the infection rates amongst 12 to 16 year-olds are rising at the moment very rapidly.

“And I think therefore the scene is set for a very challenging Spring that might even be more challenging than the late part of this term.”

Mr Newland highlighted the mental health and wellbeing support than was being offered to schools by the county, as well as the ‘Back on Track’ programme to help primary pupils.

And he pointed to further planned work to support leader wellbeing and newly qualified teachers, as well as helping schools to deal with Covid-related financial consequences.

He said work would also look at closing pupils’ knowledge and skills gap and preparation for assessment in 2021.

“We are now looking at the Spring term with some dread,” he said.

“But we are looking to the more distant future about how we try to move from crisis mode , more firmly into recovery and then eventually to something approaching normal.”

Welcoming Mr Newland’s remarks, Liberal Democrat Cllr Nigel Quinton said: “I am actually glad to hear Simon using the word “dread” for the Spring term.

“Because I think some realism is really over-due in the challenges facing schools thanks to Covid.”