Thousands of pupils missing school due to Covid-19 in Havering, survey finds

At least 3,201 pupils were absent from Havering schools on just one day in October, a snapshot Gover

At least 3,201 pupils were absent from Havering schools on just one day in October, a snapshot Government survey reveals. Picture: PA/Jacob King - Credit: PA

At least 3,201 pupils were absent from Havering schools on one day in October, a snapshot government survey reveals.

With falling attendance rates across England, but lowest in parts of the north, the Association of School and College Leaders is calling for the government to provide more support and guidance to schools.

The Department for Education’s survey of school attendance showed 3,201 out of 34,227 enrolled pupils were absent from Havering schools on October 15. But the overall attendance rate was 90 per cent, just slightly higher than Redbridge’s 87pc.

Of the children absent, 49.9pc were from secondary schools, 45pc from primary schools and around 4pc from special schools.

Havering also had one school closed due to Covid-19.

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The survey only looked at state-funded schools, of which 89pc responded in Havering, so it is likely even more pupils were off throughout the area.

The figures, which were placed in the House of Commons library following a written question from MP Margaret Greenwood, showed the total attendance rate across England was 89pc – down from 90pc a week earlier.

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The DfE said up to 412,000 children did not attend school for Covid-19 related reasons, with the majority self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus.

More than a fifth of schools said they had one or more pupils self-isolating who had been asked to do so due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside the school.

Attendance rates varied greatly across the country, with secondary school attendance in Knowsley, in the North West, the lowest (61pc).

This was equal to the average across London, which was one of the highest in England.

Parts of London recorded secondary school attendances as high as 94pc, close to the usual national average.

With such uneven rates across the country, the Association of School and College Leaders said the figures show schools are doing a fantastic job under difficult circumstances, but they need more support.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: “The government has to set out clear plans on how next year’s GCSEs and A-levels will be fair to students given that they are being disrupted to a widely differing extent.

“The plans that have been set out so far amount to no more than tinkering at the edges and don’t go anywhere near far enough. Schools and students need a robust plan and they need it now.”

While the government has said exams will go ahead in 2021, but held three weeks later than usual, the National Education Union said the mistakes of 2020 risk being repeated.

Avis Gilmore, deputy general secretary of the NEU, said: “We need to see a reduction in what is assessed, and a serious conversation with the profession to ensure a robust national system of moderated centre-assessed grades.

“Decisive action is needed to ensure schools and colleges have a clear path forward, giving students and their families the reassurance that an examination system is in place that ensures fairness across the country.”

A DfE spokeswoman said schools were expected to provide pupils with remote education when they were self-isolating and headteachers could decide how to use their school’s premium allocation funding to tackle the impact of lost teaching time on pupils.

She added: “Exams are the fairest way of judging a student’s performance, which is why they will go ahead next year, underpinned by contingency measures developed in partnership with the sector.

“Over the coming weeks we will jointly identify any risks to exams and the measures needed to address potential disruption, with fairness for students continuing to be our priority.”

Councillor Robert Benham, Havering’s cabinet member for education, children and families, said: “The number of pupils attending schools in Havering is slightly above the national average which reflects the support we have given to schools to help them keep up-to-date with the latest measures, and the hard work of our schools in keeping pupils and staff safe.

“We realise that pupils will have anxieties about going to school, but it’s important that they attend, not only from an educational perspective, but also for their wellbeing and future life chances.

“Where they can’t attend, because they have to self-isolate, schools are able to provide good quality education remotely.”

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