Figures show how many children in Kent were not in class this month because of coronavirus

Almost 12,000 pupils in Kent were not in school because of the coronavirus, a snapshot of absence rates for one week earlier this month show.

While the figure seems high, it equates to an attendance rate of 93.5% for primary schools and 86.2% for secondary schools.

Head teacher Hayley King

For the week beginning June 22, of the 313 primary schools who provided data, 68,683 pupils should have been in class but 64,195 were; 4,488 fewer.

In secondary schools, of the 56 schools that provided figures, 50,309 children should have been in lessons but 43,350 were - 6,959 fewer.

The snapshot is based on weekly returns from schools made to the Department for Education. Not all schools return the numbers.

Data on attendance rates reveal a mixed picture of the impact of the pandemic but there have been concerns over the growing number of children absent.

Ministers are expected to end in Autumn automatic self-isolation for children who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Many schools have complained that current guidance is too restrictive and can be disruptive.

And parents may be able to claim a £500 government payment if their children are sent home to isolate.

Martin Lewis, founder of website Money Saving Expert, is among those reminding parents who find themselves being called home at short notice, to investigate whether they can claim the £500 payment - which has to be applied for within 42 days of a child's first day of isolation.

Despite anecdotal evidence that growing numbers of children are having to be sent home, the figures are much lower than those recorded in December last year in Kent when the virus was much more virulent and the country was in lockdown.

A snapshot then revealed that of 414 Primary and secondary schools, there were 66,828 pupils out of class.

Ministers are expected to end automatic self-isolation for pupils who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. Stock picture
Ministers are expected to end automatic self-isolation for pupils who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. Stock picture

One headteacher said it was not just individual pupils who lost out but other children.

Hayley King, Head Teacher of Tiger Primary School, in Maidstone, said: “For some pupils who are out of school, they do not necessarily have the IT equipment, so they are missing face-to-face education and they won't have access to to school resources that may help.

"It also impacts on the children who are left in school too...when you close a bubble you lose staff and that impacts on staff and other children. We need to find a way forward because we can't carry on as we are because you get one child affected and it has a massive impact."

At Simon Langton Girls' Grammar School in Canterbury, three classes of pupils are currently isolating, along with a number of individuals.

Head teacher Paul Pollard says he is "concerned" about a local increase in Covid-19 cases and the impact it will have upon teaching.

"Internally we have had four PCR confirmed cases," he said. "These are our first positive tests within the school since students returned in March.

"We are certainly concerned about the local increase and the impact this will have, but equally we are concerned about achieving the balance between students who are missing more of their face-to-face education and protecting the wider school community.

"For instance, whilst many of our staff are double vaccinated, there are still a lot who have only had their first dose."

Mr Pollard says he would welcome the introduction of daily lateral flow testing for school pupils, which is currently being piloted in a government trial.

"We would certainly be happy to see it commence in the autumn," he said. "Particularly if students are testing at home before they arrive in school, rather than schools being required to run internal testing centres for weeks on end.

"As with all changes, especially those that will impact on the summer 2022 examinations season, what schools require most is early notification to allow time for planning."

KMTV'S report on the absence rates

Christine McInnes, Kent County Council’s Director of Education, said: “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have advised and encouraged all Kent schools to follow the latest Government guidance in terms of hygiene, cleanliness, social distancing and self-isolation and this advice remains in place as restrictions continue to lift.

“Although we are no longer asking schools to share their attendance data with us, as we did at the height of the pandemic, we are pleased to hear from a number of schools that most of their pupils are attending regularly. We would like to take this opportunity to remind families that children and young people should be in school when they are well and not required to self-isolate as regular attendance is vital for their learning and their mental and physical well-being.

“As we’ve said many times before, teachers and school staff have done a fantastic job of educating and supporting our children and young people in extremely difficult circumstances and we know they will continue to put their pupils’ needs first going forward.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The vast majority of children and young people are in school, but I am aware that sadly a minority are experiencing disruption at the moment.

“Whilst pupils who are self-isolating are being immediately provided with high-quality remote education, we know that the best place for children is in the classroom. That is why I am working with the Health Secretary, alongside scientists and public health experts, to relax covid measures in schools in line with wider work to remove restrictions across society.

“I’ll be looking closely at the issues around the need for ongoing isolation of bubbles and the outcomes of the daily contact testing trial, as we consider a new model for keeping children in education.”

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

For more news from My Kent Family click here.

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