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More than 70 Norfolk schools and colleges have Covid cases

PUBLISHED: 18:07 21 October 2020 | UPDATED: 18:40 21 October 2020

Council bosses say there are confirmed coronavirus cases in 70 schools and colleges in Norfolk. Pic: Ben Birchall / PA.

Council bosses say there are confirmed coronavirus cases in 70 schools and colleges in Norfolk. Pic: Ben Birchall / PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

More than 70 schools and colleges in Norfolk currently have confirmed coronavirus cases - and 1,500 pupils and staff have had to self-isolate since term started, it has been revealed.

Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Eaton. Pic: Liberal Democrats.Brian Watkins, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Eaton. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

But council bosses are pleased the overall attendance rate at schools is above the national average, despite the pandemic.

Councillors at a Norfolk County Council scrutiny committee received a presentation that there were confirmed Covid-19 cases in 23 primary schools (7pc of 353 schools), 17 secondary schools (32pc of 53 schools) and in one of the 13 special schools - although those figures have since been added to.

The overall attendance across schools is 93pc, which officers said was “not far off” what would normally be expected - 95pc in primary schools and 91pc in secondary schools.

John Crowley, head of education achievement and early years service, said some of the difference was because secondary schools were being more adversely affected by Covid-19 cases.

Labour Town Close county councillor Emma Corlett. Pic: BRITTANY WOODMANLabour Town Close county councillor Emma Corlett. Pic: BRITTANY WOODMAN

He said: “The other thing to think about is the impact of the requirement to isolate for fortnights at a time where there has been a close contact.

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“There’s been in excess of 1,500 pupils or staff that have been required, at some point, to isolate for a period of time which obviously will have had quite a significant impact on them.

“It’s a relatively small proportion - around 1pc of the total pupil population, but that’s clearly something which is going to have an impact over the year as that continues to be the case.

The need for staff to self-isolate has also seen teacher attendance fall slightly - to about 95pc.

Mr Crowley said: “So far, that’s been something the school system has been able to manage, so that has not caused any school closures or anything like that in itself yet, but schools have had to be quite creative about how they have been able to staff their schools.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Brian Watkins raised concerns about mental health of pupils, particularly those with special needs, while Labour’s Emma Corlett asked if school budgets were being affected by the need to spend money on cleaning.

Officers said work was being done to help with mental health and that, so far, cleaning costs were not being raised as a particular issue, but acknowledged they may be in the longer term.

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