Attendance percentages plunged to 'low 20s' at some schools last winter, committee hears

Havering Town Hall plans

A council report said some pupils will need to receive catch-up classes beyond the coming year. - Credit: Ken Mears

Education leaders have revealed the scale of the challenge schools faced last winter, when the percentage of children in attendance at some dropped to the low 20s. 

Havering Council officers presented a report on schools’ responses during different “phases” of the pandemic to the authority's children and learning overview and scrutiny sub-committee on November 23. 

During the presentation, assistant director of education services Trevor Cook said some "schools had attendance rates in the low twenties at times” in winter 2020/21. 

According to Lee Raftery, deputy headteacher at The Royal Liberty School in Gidea Park, said the period was a "challenging time in education”. 

He told the Recorder track and trace meant the school would frequently send large groups of students, who had been identified as close contacts, home to isolate. 

On occasion, it would have to switch back to full remote learning as full year groups were sent home.  

Mr Cook’s report to the council described how online individual marking and feedback, used by schools during the pandemic, had proved popular and led many to introduce permanent changes to the way they respond to pupils’ work. 

Mr Raftery said Royal Liberty continued to use much of the adapted technology brought in at the height of the pandemic, such as interactive teaching tools, virtual assemblies and online parents’ evenings. 

Most Read

It has also continued to operate split lunch breaks for key stage three and four pupils. 

He said the school was now focused on counteracting loss of learning, through a compulsory sixth period for all year 10 and 11 pupils. 

The council’s report cited similar concerns about catch-up, noting: “Leaders feel the hours of tuition funded are not adequate and teachers will need to implement in-school catch-up this coming year and for some pupils possibly beyond that.” 

During the discussion of the report, Lynne Bennett, representing the Church of England, asked where funding for catch-up would come from. 

Mr Cook responded: “Feedback from schools was that, while it was gratefully received, the level of funding from the DfE [Department for Education] really wasn’t reflective of the amount of lost time. 

“Unfortunately, we are not aware of any additional funding being made available by the DfE, specifically for catch-up programmes, so the expectation is that schools will have to fund that from their own resources.”