School attendance before half-term was lowest since March reopening
- Credit: PA
The proportion of pupils attending school in Norfolk before half-term dropped to its lowest level since the week schools reopened in March.
More than one in 10 (13pc) of secondary school pupils in the county were absent on the final week before half-term, according to the Department for Education (DfE) statistics.
It is the lowest attendance since the first week after the reopening of schools to all pupils on March 8 when 82pc of secondary students, 32,758 in total, returned to classrooms
Norfolk schools saw 91.6pc of students in classrooms before Easter, higher than the national average attendance.
But since then attendance has fallen with 29,339 (88pc) of secondary pupils in schools on the week of May 20 before falling further before half-term.
Attendance is higher in primary schools, though this too has fallen slightly from a high of 46,467 pupils (96pc) in the first week back in March.
However the DfE data shows that unlike during the second wave of the pandemic, which forced the closure of schools in January, the number of absences for non-coronavirus reasons is higher than for Covid cases.
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John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said despite falling slightly towards the end of half term, attendance figures continue to be “above the national average”.
He said: “Secondary attendance is slightly lower than primary, but this trend is expected for this time of year.
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“Since schools reopened to all pupils following the spring lockdown towards the end of spring term, we’re encouraged to see that attendance levels remain high.”
The latest figures come after health secretary Matt Hancock urged pupils returning to class this week after half-term to get tested to ensure they are not asymptomatically carrying the virus.
School leaders' unions are calling on the Government to be cautious before any further easing of Covid-19 restrictions and to be proactive to ensure that transmission in schools does not "proceed unchecked".
Former local head Geoff Barton, who is now general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union, said: "This situation highlights the fact that the utmost caution is needed in the weeks ahead before any further easing of Covid restrictions, and the current measures must also be kept under review to see if any other actions are immediately required."