Daily Mail

You’re a class act

Pupils’ joy as they re­turn to school for first time in six months

- By David Churchill, Josh White and James Tozer School Truancy · UK News · Education · Parenting · Family · Sinclair Lewis · Liverpool · Leamington · Gavin Williamson

‘So ec­static I was do­ing cart­wheels’

THERE were beam­ing smiles at school gates across the coun­try yes­ter­day as thou­sands of pupils were re­united with friends for the first time in six months.

Par­ents spoke of their delight that their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion would no longer suf­fer and they would be freed up to make more trips into work.

Fam­i­lies largely ap­peared to defy virus fears, with many schools re­port­ing high at­ten­dance rates. One academy chain said at­ten­dance was 94.3 per cent across its six pri­mary schools and that the ab­sent pupils did not stay away due to Covid-19 con­cerns.

Mean­while schools in Le­ices­ter, which were among the first in the coun­try to open last week, said at­ten­dance was above 90 per cent.

Other schools said they felt the vast ma­jor­ity of pupils had re­turned.

It is too early to tell how suc­cess­ful the Government’s drive to get chil­dren back into class­rooms has been, with mil­lions more pupils not due to re­turn un­til later this week or next.

and many of those which opened yes­ter­day are stag­ger­ing the re­turn of in­di­vid­ual year groups to en­sure so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures are not over­whelmed early on. But school lead­ers sig­nalled there were en­cour­ag­ing early signs. among those de­fy­ing their fears at school gates yes­ter­day was mother-of-two Kayleigh Leather, 35. She dropped off her sons Har­ri­son, nine, and Lewis, six, at Leam­ing­ton Com­mu­nity Pri­mary School in Liver­pool.

She said: ‘I was do­ing cart­wheels. I was so ec­static for the chil­dren be­cause they have missed out so much on their ed­u­ca­tion. I find it ridicu­lous that pubs were able to open be­fore schools.’

emma Tim­son, 36, was wait­ing out­side Or­chard Mead academy in Le­ices­ter for her son Lewis, 11, at the end of the day.

She said: ‘I was quite ner­vous this morn­ing, be­cause we’ve been shield­ing for the past few months as I’m preg­nant.

‘So I’ve been think­ing about him all day. But the school had planned well, with the stag­gered starts and other mea­sures like half year group bub­bles, and kept par­ents in­formed, and it sounds like it has gone well.’

The pos­i­tive re­turn came after a youGov poll sug­gested 17 per cent of par­ents in eng­land and Wales were ‘se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing’ keep­ing their chil­dren out of school over lin­ger­ing virus fears.

a sep­a­rate poll by Mum­snet found 46 per cent of par­ents were ‘ anx­ious’ about send­ing their chil­dren back to school, while 52 per cent were ‘re­laxed’. a third said they may pull their chil­dren out of school if in­fec­tions rise.

In a blow for ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Gavin Wil­liamson, the poll also found 58 per cent did not feel the Depart­ment for ed­u­ca­tion has done enough to re­as­sure fam­i­lies it is safe to send chil­dren back. Over the com­ing weeks min­is­ters will be keen to avoid the drop in at­ten­dance seen in Scot­tish schools, where more than 100,000 pupils are ab­sent.

Data col­lected from lo­cal au­thor­i­ties there yes­ter­day re­vealed at­ten­dance is now 84.5 per cent, down from 95.8 per cent a few weeks ear­lier. How­ever, only about a fifth of the ab­sences were recorded as ‘Covid-19 re­lated’.

Mr Wil­liamson yes­ter­day said he was ‘con­fi­dent’ that prepa­ra­tions put in place would al­low a ‘suc­cess­ful re­turn’ for all pupils in eng­land, adding that wel­com­ing chil­dren back was a ‘mas­sive mile­stone’.

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