Commenting on the latest school attendance data, now incorporating local authority breakdowns for the first time, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:   

“These attendance figures that have been hidden from the public for so long show just what a profound impact coronavirus has had on schooling in many areas. 

“For example, Hull has had less than 60% attendance in their secondary schools for much of the last half term. Rochdale averaged just 70% attendance in their secondary schools over the whole term. 

“Bury, Rotherham and Gateshead had an average of more than 90% of their secondary schools with pupils self-isolating. 

“In these circumstances, we cannot see how it is fair on these pupils to sit exams under the same conditions as pupils in York or West Sussex where secondary attendance averaged 90% over the term.” 

“The interests of an individual child are of course to be in school, but you have to view this with a wider canvas than that - which Gavin Williamson has been failing to do in his recourse to legal threats. Schools are deeply concerned that community spread is being generated by schools, which are now widely accepted to be major centres of transmission, particularly in secondaries. The most recent ONS data shows that the only other age group seeing a case count other than school-age children, is in the age group which covers most parents (35-49).  

“The NEU commends school leaders and councils for taking an ethical stance, in a volatile situation where public health is the prime concern, especially so close to Christmas. It is their standing up for pupils, staff and the community which mattered most in a time of crisis. By contrast, the Secretary of State and his colleagues have failed utterly in their responsibility to keep schools safe.” 

ENDS 

Editor’s note 

ONS comment, 11 December.

Sources: 

  1. Attendance -.drawn from Table 1C- Weekly attendance in state schools during the COVID outbreak at local authority level  
  2. Schools with self isolating - drawn from Table 1C- Weekly attendance in state schools during the COVID outbreak at local authority level   

2020-239-NEU