More pupils in English schools last week than during first lockdown, data says

Around one in five primary school pupils in England were taught on-site last week, considerably higher than the number of those physically coming to class during the first national lockdown last spring, figures suggest.

Snapshot data from the Department for Education (DfE) shows 21% of primary pupils were taught in the classroom as of January 13, dropping to 5% (one in 20 pupils) of secondary school students.

Overall, 14% of all state school pupils in England were on-site last week, higher

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

than when schools were partially closed between March and May last year as the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic swept across the UK.

In fact, on-site attendance for primary school pupils during the first lockdown was approximately 4%, and 1% in secondary schools, according to the Government’s analysis.

Pupils in schools and colleges in England, except children of key workers and vulnerable pupils, have been told to learn remotely until mid-February due to tighter restrictions.

But approximately 709,000 children of critical workers were in attendance on January 13 – which represents 72% of all pupils in attendance last week.

The data also suggested a significant drop in the percentage of vulnerable pupils, those who are in touch with social services, or have special educational needs or disabilities, attending school.

It found that approximately 34% of all pupils with an EHCP (education health and care plan) on roll in state schools were in attendance on January 13, down from 75% on December 16 although this was when schools were open.

DfE figures also show 239,103 laptops and devices, key to keeping children from disadvantaged backgrounds learning from home, have been sent to councils, academy trusts, schools and colleges across England since January 4 when the latest lockdown was announced.

A total of 801,524 laptops and tablets have been delivered or dispatched to support pupils to access remote education since the start of the scheme.

The figures came as Downing Street reiterated the desire for schools to open “as soon as possible”, after deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries suggested that a regional approach may be taken in deciding when England’s pupils return.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the increased numbers of pupils in schools, compared with the first lockdown, put staff under “tremendous pressure” to juggle face-to-face teaching with remote learning for those at home.

He said: “It has also raised concerns about how many children it is safe to have in schools during a time in which the Prime Minister has advised people to stay at home and save lives.

“We still haven’t had a clear answer from the Government on this crucial question.”