‘Astonishing variations’ reported in children returning to Hertfordshire schools

PUBLISHED: 13:17 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:17 04 June 2020

Pupils health and safety is number one priority as schools across Huntingdonshire get ready to fully re-open from September. Picture: PA WIRE

Pupils health and safety is number one priority as schools across Huntingdonshire get ready to fully re-open from September. Picture: PA WIRE


Hertfordshire schools are seeing a “great deal of variability” in the number of children who have returned to the classroom this week, it has been revealed.

In some schools it has been claimed as few as one in three eligible youngsters have actually gone back, county councillors have heard.

On June 1, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils were given the green light to return to school, however a number of parents and carers have decided to keep their children at home.

The county council does not yet have data on the number of children who have returned to school this week.

At a meeting of the council’s special cabinet panel on Wednesday, Labour leader Judi Billing pointed to the “astonishing variations” reported by local schools.

She highlighted one school in Hitchin where they had welcomed back 90 per cent of eligible pupils – but said that another had seen “less then a third” of their eligible children return.

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Operations director Simon Newland told councillors that as far as he was aware, all primary schools in Hertfordshire – except one – were open.

He agreed, however, that there was “a great deal of variability between schools” in terms of the provision available, and said the council was waiting for further information from the Department for Education.

“We don’t yet have a clear picture,” he said. “I don’t want to suggest there’s a single model and that some schools are right and some schools are wrong.

“What schools do is heavily influenced by their local circumstances. But at the same time it’s quite right for us, where appropriate, to challenge them on what they are doing – in view of the importance of getting these pupils back into school for those young people.”

Cllr Billing also highlighted that many parents were “frightened” to send their children back to school.

Mr Newland agreed there was an “issue of confidence” among parents, saying: “There is considerable fear in the community about the risks of attending school and I think that fear is generally somewhat overstated.”

Mr Newland told the panel it was important for the council and schools to encourage parents to send their children in, once they are eligible and a place is available for them.

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