16 February 2021

Nearly one in four primary school pupils in England on-site amid lockdown

16 February 2021

Nearly one in four primary school pupils in England were on-site last week, Government data shows.

Attendance in primary schools is now six times higher than during the first lockdown in spring when approximately 4% of pupils attended class, figures from the Department for Education (DfE) suggest.

The data shows that 24% of primary school pupils were on-site last week, which is a rise on the week before (23%). This is the third week in a row that primary school attendance has increased.

Overall, 16% of state school pupils were in class on February 11 – the same as the week before.

Pupils in schools and colleges in England – except children of key workers and vulnerable pupils – have been told to learn remotely during the lockdown.

Approximately 894,000 children of key workers were in attendance last week, slightly down from 895,000 the week before.

Only 5% of secondary school students were in class last week – the same as on February 4, the figures show.

Attendance in state primary/secondary schools in England (PA Graphics)

It comes after Boris Johnson said that no decisions have been made on whether all pupils can return to school at the same time on March 8 in England after reports suggested a staggered approach may be taken, with secondary schools going back a week later than primaries.

The DfE has now dispatched more than a million (1,055,745) laptops and tablets to support disadvantaged pupils to access remote education since the start of the pandemic.

Figures show that 493,324 devices have been sent to councils, academy trusts, schools and colleges across England since the lockdown began on January 4 – which is an extra 68,896 devices compared to the same time last week.

It comes after the Government pledged to provide 1.3 million devices to disadvantaged children.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “With each week that passes we are seeing the number of pupils attending our primary schools creep upwards, applying yet more pressure on teachers facing a daily juggling act to balance effective on-site and remote learning.

“Meanwhile another week passes with no sign of guidance from the Government on what the upper limit on attendance in schools should be, set against the obviously contradictory advice to stay home and save lives.”

On the progress with laptops, she added: “It is great news that the Government has now managed to get a million laptops out to the most disadvantaged pupils but, with better insight and planning earlier in the pandemic, this could and should have been achieved much sooner.

“The Government has been playing catch-up on this issue for months and it is the students desperately needing the technology who have suffered as a result.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister is due to set out plans for schools reopening on February 22, and it is hoped pupils will return from March 8.

“Schools remain open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers, but if critical workers can work from home and look after their children at the same time then they should do so.”

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