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High Attendance at Schools During Lockdown Gives Safety Concerns

Published on: 14 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 15 Jan, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

More key workers are choosing to send their children to school than in previous lockdowns, say national reports and this could be affecting safety says the local education authority, Surrey County Council (SCC).

People clapped and banged drums for the NHS and key workers during the first lockdown in 2019.

A SCC spokesperson commented: “Reported high attendance of children in schools, together with staff absences in some locations, is making safety a concern in some areas. Schools operate strict social distancing regimes and these have increased from one to two metres under new guidance.

“We would encourage parents working in critical sectors to keep their child at home, where it is safe to do so, and access any remote learning offered.”

The Guildford Education Partnership (GEP), who manage six schools in Guildford, said they had not encountered problems despite a rise in pupils on site compared to the first lockdown.

A spokesperson said around 5% of pupils were currently attending their secondary schools and between 19% and 37% at their primary schools. They said: “Thorough risk assessments have been carried out and are strictly adhered to.”

The Guildford Dragon NEWS has asked SCC for lockdown attendance figures in Guildford but they say the figures, supplied by the Department for Education (DfE), are “marked as sensitive and not for sharing”.

Since the latest lockdown, primary and secondary schools have moved to remote learning with the exception of vulnerable children and children of key workers. The council say that schools are being provided with laptops for pupils via the DfE’s Get Help with Technology scheme.

SCC said that laptops for remote learning were available for disadvantaged children from the government (Library image).

The SCC spokesperson said that the technology for remote learning is now largely in place and that schools have become “very adept at providing a high-quality remote learning”.

The spokesperson also said that all secondary schools “will now have received lateral flow devices, for use on pupils and staff”. GEP confirmed that testing was being carried out at their Guildford secondary schools, George Abbot School and Kings College.

The government guidance says schools are to carry out weekly voluntary testing with “daily testing for those identified as close contacts of workforce colleagues, students or pupils that have tested positive” to avoid the need for isolating people unnecessarily.

There is pressure for teachers and education staff in Surrey to be prioritised for vaccination. The teachers union, NASUWT, said that early vaccination for school staff would minimise further disruption of children’s education. The spokesperson for SCC said that they supported priority vaccination for those providing “face-to-face teaching”.

GEP said the most vulnerable groups should take precedence but “vaccination of staff within schools should be considered as high priority, alongside other face-to-face public services”.

The priority is currently is for care home staff and residents to be first, then those over 80 and health and social care workers followed by those over 70 and “clinically extremely vulnerable people”.

If you are a teacher, or a parent or grandparent with children attending school during the lockdown, we would like to hear of your experience. Please use the Leave a Reply feature below or email: guildford-dragon@gmail.com

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