School return report: Two-thirds of official primary pupil population across Atherstone and district not in attendance yesterday

  Posted: 10.06.20 at 18:17 by Nick Hudson

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THE LIGHTS may be on in state-funded primary schools across Atherstone and North Warwickshire but the number of children actually back behind their desks are fanning critics’ claims that returning arrangements are in “tatters”.

Figures obtained by Nub News reveal nearly two-thirds of the official pupil population normally in attendance were not in the classroom yesterday.

The number of Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 schoolchildren on site in the borough’s scholastic establishments stood at 855 and was said to be “increasing”, Warwickshire County Council said.

The 37 per cent pupil attendance stats are in marked contrast to tweeted comments by authority leader Izzi Seccombe of her “pleasure” at more than 85 per cent of the educational buildings reopening last week.

Under pressure: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

In addition, a small minority of children are in attendance from other primary year groups (Years 2, 3, 4 and 5) who are either vulnerable or belong to key workers.

The debate over the three year groups returning after half term has exploded into a full-scale political row at Westminster as the Government has been forced to admit defeat over its desire for all primary pupils in England to attend classes before the summer break.

Some schools argued they do not have enough space on site to admit all eligible pupils.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has come under intense pressure as within hours of accepting children might not all be back by the start of September, the Government unveiled plans for zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas to open from Monday.

It appears schoolchildren can get fast food but not an education in a school setting, parents are claiming on social media.

Prime Minister’s Questions saw Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer go on the attack, telling MPs that parents have "lost confidence" in the Government's schools plan and millions of children could miss six months' worth of education.

Sir Keir told the Commons: "We all want as many children back into school as soon as it's possible and as soon as it's safe.

"What that required for that to happen was a robust national plan, consensus among all key stakeholders and strong leadership from the top – all three are missing.

"The current arrangements lie in tatters, parents have lost confidence in the Government's approach, millions of children will miss six months' worth of schooling and inequality will now go up.”

As children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England began returning to primary school last week after the Government eased lockdown measures, Nub News revealed exclusively on Sunday that a Reception class pupil had tested positive infected by the deadly virus Canons C of E Primary in Bedworth.

But unfortunately for the Derwent Road school, the first they realised it had a coronavirus “situation” on its hands was when contacted by Public Health England – leaving children who had mixed with the infected pupil four days earlier to self-isolate, along with five members of staff.

Questions of England’s decision to ease lockdown measures ahead of the rest of the UK has been brought into sharp focus by the return to school of some pupils last week.

Another Bedworth primary school has spoken of how the “full commitment” to the welfare of its 400 children has led to a military-style safeguarding operation to accommodate the gradual return of children to the classroom.

St Michael’s Academy, one of the town’s educational establishments catering for pupils up to the age of 11, is imposing unprecedented peacetime measures to ensure safety is paramount following the lessening of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The Education Secretary has confirmed that primary schools in England will not be able to welcome all pupils back before the summer holidays.

The Government's ambition had been for all primary schoolchildren to return to the classroom for four weeks before the end of the summer term – but Mr Williamson has announced that this will not be required.

Here’s a guide on when pupils are set to go back to school across the UK.

- Which year groups in England are already back at school?
Schools, colleges and nurseries across the UK closed more than 11 weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak, remaining open only for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

But last week, children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 began returning to school in England.

Government guidance says these children should be kept in class sizes of no more than 15 pupils.

- Have all schools in England reopened to children in these year groups?
A number of councils, including in the north west of England, have advised schools to delay reopening more widely to children after new data suggested coronavirus could still be spreading in their local areas.

Meanwhile, some school leaders have said they do not have enough physical space on site to admit all pupils in the eligible year groups, while following Government guidance to limit class sizes to 15.

The latest Government figures show that just over half – 52 per cent – of primary schools reopened to more children on Thursday last week.

- When are secondary school and college pupils in England due to return?
The Government wants secondary schools and colleges to provide "some face-to-face support" to Year 10 and 12 pupils, as well as 16 to 19-year-old students who are due to take key exams next year, from June 15.

Only a quarter of pupils will be able to attend at any one time in order to limit the risk of transmission.

Mr Williamson has told MPs that he plans for GCSE and A-level exams to go ahead as normal next year.

- What about children in the other year groups?[.B}
The original aim to get all primary school children back to school before the summer has been dropped.

But Mr Williamson said he would like to see schools who "have the capacity" bring back more pupils where possible before the summer holidays.

He has said that the Government is "working to bring all children back to school in September".

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