Unions respond to latest attendance figures

The Association of School and College Leaders and the National Education Union have commented on the week 46 attendance statistics from the Department for Education

The school attendance figures for last week show an increase in the disruption coronavirus is causing in schools. Almost two thirds of secondary schools had pupils self-isolating, up from 38% the week before, and the proportion of primary schools doubled from 11% to 22%. More than 600,000 pupils did not attend school for coronavirus related reasons and one in 6 secondary pupils were not in school last week. 

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “These figures show a huge increase in the number of secondary schools having to send home pupils to self-isolate.

“It is clear that the improvement we saw following the half-term holiday was temporary and that the situation has worsened again very quickly.

“Disruption is widespread and is happening in an ad hoc manner because of the unpredictability of outbreaks.

“This makes it very difficult for schools to be able to plan and deliver lessons and catch-up support. This is exacerbated if there are also members of staff having to self-isolate.

“We understand the government’s desire to keep all pupils in school full-time.

“But when nearly two-thirds of secondaries are sending home pupils we have a chaotic rota system by default.

“Schools need to be given more latitude to move to a planned rota system if they feel that this would be less disruptive, more manageable, and in the best interests of their pupils.

“It would give them the ability to deliver direct and remote learning around smaller groups rotating between school and home in a planned manner.

“The government has to recognise reality. The current situation is unsustainable.”

Commenting on the latest attendance figures, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:   

“The government squandered the opportunity to get the level of coronavirus infection down in schools by including them in a circuit breaker. They have failed to make testing available quickly enough, done nothing to reduce class sizes to reduce transmission networks and not even begun to prepare for the possible introduction of school rotas. Schools and families are now having to deal with the reality of rapidly increasing disruption in schools as coronavirus infection spreads through the school population.”  

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