Essex County Council thanks education and childcare staff in response to wider opening efforts
Secondary schools, colleges, Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) and special schools were able to open to pupils in Years 10 and 12 due to be taking exams next year (Years 10 and 11 for alternative provision settings as they have no Year 12) from Monday 15 June.
The return was limited to a maximum of a quarter of each year group attending per day. Data made available to Essex County Council (ECC) by the Department for Education (DfE) suggests that, on Tuesday 23 June in Essex:
• 70 per cent of secondary, PRU and special schools opened to at least one of the two year groups
• 10 per cent were only open to vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers
• 31 per cent opened to both year groups
• Schools were open to approximately 60 per cent of all Year 10 and Year 12 year groups in some form
• Approximately one in ten pupils in Year 10 and Year 12 attended a school on this day
20 per cent of secondary schools didn’t submit a return, meaning we expect the above figures were 5 to 15 per cent higher in reality.
We have seen a rise in figures for primary school wider opening and attendance in Essex. On 23 June, 81 per cent of primary and special schools were open to at least one of the year groups able to return (Reception, Year 1, Year 6). 36 per cent of pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 attended schools, up from 25 per cent on 9 June. 17 per cent of primary schools didn’t submit a return, meaning we expect the above figures were 5 to 10 per cent higher in reality.
34,326 pupils were confirmed as attending schools in Essex on 23 June, up from approximately 4,400 across primary and secondary settings before half term and 20,000 on 9 June.
Attendance and opening figures for early years settings – such as day nurseries, pre-schools and childminders – have also been increasing. 34 per cent of all registered early years settings in Essex were open on 16 June (compared to 30 per cent on 11 June), with 5,164 children in attendance (up from 4,081). A further 10 per cent of settings, believed to be open, did not respond to the DfE’s survey.
We are encouraging schools to have some face to face time with as many of their children as possible before the end of term. This is after the DfE gave primary schools the flexibility to welcome back pupils in Years 2, 3, 4 and 5, if they have the capacity to do so. However, we recognise this won’t be practicably possible for all schools, and any return for these year groups is likely to be on a very part time or one-off basis. Schools’ risk assessments will decide their response.
In Essex, we have seen our schools, teachers and parents do an amazing job of supporting pupils as much as possible to continue to learn over the last few months. However, we do recognise the need to help pupils to catch-up on education missed as a result of coronavirus disruption and welcomed last week’s announcement of funding for primary and secondary schools to assist with this.
A portion of the funding will be used to give schools access to subsidised tutoring sessions and free coaches for disadvantaged pupils throughout the next academic year. A guide has been produced to help school leaders decide how to use the remaining funding, with the suggestions including summer schools, intervention programmes, access to technology and extra teaching capacity.
We will work with schools and consult on the use of funding once more information is available. While we are aware that a small number of schools in Essex are considering offering some provision during the summer holiday, it remains the case that there is no expectation on schools to open over the summer break. It was confirmed on 23 June that wrap-around care for school age children and formal childcare would restart over the summer.
The government have said they will bring all children in all year groups back to school in September on a full time basis. How this is achieved will depend on ‘bubble’ sizes and social distancing measures in place at the time, as this will impact practicalities such as building capacity and transport. We are proactively working with schools and partners in anticipation of guidance expected next week.
On 23 June, the Prime Minister announced how the government will continue to ease lockdown restrictions. This includes social distancing of ‘one metre plus’ where it is not possible to keep two metres apart. We will update schools and settings to reflect the impact these changes may have for them as guidance is released but acknowledge that they will have limited capacity to change their plans before the end of term, even if one metre plus is advised for schools.
Essex has seen a return to primary schools and early years settings begin to take place on a phased, gradual basis.
Data made available to Essex County Council (ECC) by the Department for Education (DfE) suggests that, on Tuesday 9 June in Essex:
- 78 per cent of primary and special schools were open to at least one of the year groups now able to return (Reception, Year 1, Year 6)
- 42 per cent of primary and special schools were open to all three year groups (Reception, Year 1 and Year 6) in some form.
- 5 per cent of schools were open only to vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers.
- Schools were open to approximately two thirds of all Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 year groups in some form.
- Approximately one quarter of all pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 attended schools.
- Approximately 20,000 pupils attended primary and special schools, up from approximately 4,400 across primary and secondary settings before half term*.
- Early years settings – such as day nurseries, pre-schools and childminders – were permitted to open more widely for non-keyworker children from 1 June. Our latest information, for 11 June, shows that 30 per cent of all registered early years settings in Essex were open, with 4,081 children in attendance. A further 12 per cent of settings, believed to be open, did not respond to the DfE’s survey. In the week prior to half term and wider opening (18 to 22 May), approximately 20 per cent of settings were open, with 1,000 children in attendance.
Cllr Ray Gooding, Cabinet Member for Education, said: “I’m pleased to see the fantastic response of schools and early years settings in Essex to wider opening now being possible.
“This is in no small part thanks to the enormous effort of education and childcare staff across the county. Preparations for wider opening have been taking place for months, and the logistical issues settings have had to take into consideration are numerous. I can only thank staff once again for their dedication and commitment to the children and young people of Essex.
“While I recognise not all schools and early years settings have been able to respond to wider opening immediately, we must take into account the restrictions settings are operating within.
“We’ve been clear that the health and safety of children, families and staff must be the priority in plans for wider opening. With smaller group sizes and protective bubbles, space in buildings is at a premium, and teaching staff in schools are splitting their time between those attending and those still learning from home.
“We continue to work with early years settings to support more to open, including working closely with our district and borough council colleagues to help the sector access Covid-19 financial support packages. We are assisting those schools who have not yet been able to respond to wider opening with their plans. I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to see an increase in opening and attendance figures in the coming weeks.”
From Monday 1 June, the government allowed primary schools to reopen to pupils in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6. Special schools and early years settings were also permitted to open to more children. This wider opening is in addition to settings accommodating vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.
Each school and early years setting has undertaken their own risk assessment bespoke to their setting / community to determine their response to wider opening being possible. This means arrangements in settings vary.
Parents who need help finding alternative childcare if their usual childcare setting is closed or unable to provide the hours they need to work can email ECC at firstname.lastname@example.org for support.
On 9 June, the government retracted their ambition for all primary school children to return in some form before the summer holidays. Instead, they have said that if schools have the capacity, they would like to see them bring back more children in other year groups using a flexible approach. ECC will support schools with this as further guidance is released.
Secondary schools and colleges are able to welcome back pupils in years 10 and 12 due to be taking exams next year (years 10 and 11 for alternative provision settings as they have no year 12) from Monday 15 June. Again, each school has undertaken their own risk assessment bespoke to their setting / community to determine their response to wider opening being possible. This means arrangements in settings will vary.
For information about ECC’s approach to schools and settings reopening, visit www.essex.gov.uk/changes-services/schools-learning
*It should be noted that 17 per cent of schools didn’t submit a return and the figures for 9 June therefore assume that these schools are closed to all students, however, we do not believe this was the case. The DfE were experiencing data collection issues during the week beginning 1 June and as such, the figures that have been made available to us for that week are unreliable.