5 times as many children attending primary school than during first lockdown

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
Pupils on the first day back to school at Charles Dickens Primary School in London, as schools in England reopen to pupils following the coronavirus lockdown. Approximately 40% of schools are expected to welcome back students for the start of the autumn term today, despite concerns being raised about their ability to reopen safely.
More than five times as many children are attending primary school during England’s latest coronavirus lockdown than they were during the first, new data suggests. (PA)

More than five times as many children are attending primary school during England’s latest coronavirus lockdown than they were during the first, new data suggests.

School attendance figures released by the government on Tuesday showed 21% of children were at state-funded primary schools on Wednesday last week.

This compares to 4% attendance at primary schools during the first lockdown in spring last year.

Under the government’s lockdown rules, schools are only open to vulnerable children or children of key workers.

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A Department for Education spokeswoman told Yahoo News UK there are a number of factors behind the increase, including:

  • more parents of children eligible to go to school allowing them to attend during this lockdown compared to the first

  • additions to the key workers list, such as the inclusion of EU transition workers this time round

  • headteachers now having the option to allow children into school if they are unable to take part in remote learning

Meanwhile, the figures also show 99% of all state-funded schools were open on Wednesday, compared to 80% in May last year.

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It comes after England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries suggested a regional approach may be taken when deciding how schools in England reopen.

Dr Harries told MPs at the Commons education select committee on Tuesday: “I think on the broad epidemiology, it is highly likely that when we come out of this national lockdown we will not have consistent patterns of infection in our communities across the country.

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“And therefore, as we had prior to the national lockdown [with the tier system], it may well be possible that we need to have some differential application.”

Of the risk of transmission in schools, Dr Harries said: “Schoolchildren definitely can transmit infection in schools – they can transmit it in any environment – but it is not a significant driver as yet, as far as we can see, of large-scale community infections.”

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown