School attendance ‘above national average’ as children want to get back to the classroom

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(Photograph taken pre-Covid)

Attendance at state-funded schools in Bedford borough was above the national average last term, which shows that “children and young people want to get back into school”.

Ben Pearson, Bedford Borough Council’s chief officer for education, SEND and schools, gave an informal briefing on the Covid situation in borough schools to the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee yesterday (Monday, January 10).

“As always, our schools have been absolutely excellent at the start of this term and at the end of last term just before Christmas,” he said.

“And they’ve been superb in the way that they’ve supported children and families, and the way that they’ve found really creative solutions to ensure they continue to stay open.

“Not just stay open, but really continue to push the curriculum and continue to keep children safe and learning,” he added.

“To give you an overview, last term national the average [attendance] in state-funded schools was just around 85 per cent, for Bedford borough it was just over 90 per cent.

“Now to me, that says children and young people want to be back in school, their parents feel safe taking them back into school, and our schools are making the offer attractive and doing everything they possibly can to stay open.

“I’m really proud of all of our schools for that and I’m really grateful for the work they’ve done.”

The committee was told that schools are continuing to engage with the council and have continued to report all cases of Covid in schools so the council is able to track where the cases are.

“Particularly where we know we have siblings across schools, or where we have shared transport for example,” Mr Pearson said.

“The start of this term has been really challenging, most schools have been open for four days or three days last week and today – we’ve already had 300 positive cases reported from our schools.

“A number of those will have been people that were positive over the Christmas period and came in on that first day.”

Martin Purbrick, the council’s director of children’s services, said that he was very pleased that schools aren’t closed and that vulnerable children and all children are getting their education.

“Because the busiest periods that we’ve seen in the past two years really have been those periods where schools have closed and then restarted,” he said.

“The teachers have been able to reacquaint themselves with the children that they knew face-to-face before, and have seen the impact of those periods of isolation and the damage it’s done to some children.

“So I’m pleased that schools are still continuing to be open and the children are still getting their education because it means that they’re still being seen every day by professionals that know them really, really well, so vulnerable children are getting the extra support that they need.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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