Parents asked to keep children home if possible as number in school doubles compared with first lockdown

File image of children in school

Twice as many children are in school now than were in class during the first lockdown last spring. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Twice as many pupils are in Suffolk schools this lockdown as there were in spring last year, new figures from the Department for Education have revealed.

A total of 13% of pupils are continuing to attend classes at Suffolk's state schools either because their parents are key workers, or because they are considered vulnerable.

The DfE asked all schools across the country for information on the number of pupils that continued to attend in person during the lockdown.

In Suffolk 297 of the 321 state schools responded. Five of these were closed because of Covid-19 while the other 292 were open for pupils considered vulnerable or whose parents were essential workers.

The schools that responded have 85,000 of the county's 101,000 state school pupils on their books.

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The DfE figures show 11,211 pupils were continuing to go to the schools that responded to the survey - 7,893 because their parents are considered to be essential workers and 3,318 because they are considered vulnerable. That is 13% of the 85,000 pupils.

In Essex 469 of the county's 555 schools responded to the DfE's survey. The county had 16,482 pupils attending which is 9% of the total number across the schools that had responded.

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The number of children going to school during this lockdown is considerably up on that during last spring's lockdown. Some schools have reportedly seen about half their normal pupils classified as children of essential workers - and at the same time schools are having to deliver e-learning to those who are at home and cope with increased sickness and self-isolation among staff.

Mary Evans

Cabinet member for education Mary Evans urged families to teach their children at home if possible. - Credit: Gregg Brownn

Mary Evans, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “I know this is a worrying time for children and families and schools, colleges and early years settings are working incredibly hard to provide learning for all Suffolk pupils.

"The county council is supporting school leaders to do this but there are additional challenges during this lockdown as schools are being asked to find places for more children and young people.

"There are approximately double the amount of children attending school in this lockdown compared to the lockdown in April 2020."  

She said that due to increased cases of Covid-19 in Suffolk and the new variant of the virus there are also fewer staff available to work due to staff sickness and isolation.

“We ask families to be understanding and patient with schools as the picture is ever changing. We would also ask parents who are critical workers, to keep their children at home where it is at all possible to do so alongside undertaking their critical job."

The council is asking families where only one parent or carer is a critical worker to consider whether their child could remain at home and access remote learning without adding to the numbers in schools where they will be mixing with other households.

Mrs Evans added: “I would like to thank school leaders and staff for all their hard work to implement the government guidance and offer remote learning alongside on site provision in this incredibly difficult time.”

Jack Abbott

Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott said:  “There are huge pressures on teachers in trying to juggle both in-class and online teaching, while also contending with soaring Covid cases which are leaving schools understaffed. I would urge any parent who is able to keep their children at home to do so.

“However, I know that the Government has left many families in an impossible position. Their broken promises around school laptops have meant that thousands of students have no way of accessing online learning and would miss out on education entirely if they couldn’t physically attend school.

“I am so grateful for the dedication of our teachers and support staff and for the way families are doing everything they can to adapt to the most difficult of circumstances."

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