Post-lockdown attendance up for Portsmouth schools but Covid cases remain an ongoing concern for headteachers

A WEEK on from the reopening of schools, education leaders say they are delighted with the return of pupils but remain cautious after some positive Covid cases.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 7:00 am

Since schools reopened on March 8 there have been six positive Covid cases in Portsmouth but attendance has been above the national average.

Cabinet member for education Cllr Suzy Horton said: ‘Attendance over the last week has been excellent at around 93 per cent which is three per cent higher than the national average. A number of primary schools have reported 100 per cent attendance.

‘I think this shows how keen parents and children are to be back in school.’

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Pictured: Pupils returning to schools in Portsmouth after lockdown. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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The desire of parents, teachers and children for the reopening of schools is epitomised at Portsdown Primary School which had 98 per cent attendance during the first week back with five classes having full attendance.

Headteacher Ash Vaghela said: ‘It has been a really positive week. This is above our normal attendance and shows just how keen children and parents are to get pupils back to school. I know this is a trend being experienced by other schools.

‘It’s fantastic to get the children back and this week has been about getting them to talk about their experiences and re-engage with school life.’

Portsmouth City Council's cabinet member for education, Cllr Suzy Horton, believes the above average attendance since lockdown shows how keen parents and children are to return to education. Picture: Habibur Rahman

While Mr Vaghela spoke of the children ‘playing with friends in the playground’ and ‘being happy to be back’ he’s also concerned about the potential impact the pandemic may have had on children’s mental health.

He added: ‘Realistically we are currently in a honeymoon period but over time some children may well start to open up in more depth about their experience and display things which we need to respond to.

‘As a school we need to be proactive in supporting mental health and wellbeing.’

Since returning to school, secondary age pupils have had to undertake three Covid tests with two tests per week then being taken at home.

Horndean Technology College headteacher Julie Summerfield has already had to send some children home to isolate after a positive Covid test. Picture by: Malcolm Wells

Cllr Horton said: ‘Testing has gone very well and there has been a high level of compliance from parents giving permission for children to be tested. In the last week we have had six positive cases which is very low.

‘While there may be a sense of getting back to normal, control measures are still in place and people need to be aware that two positive cases will result in bubbles being sent home to isolate.’

While pleased to see the return of students, Horndean Technology College headteacher Julie Summerfield has already had to send some pupils home due to potential contact with a positive case.

While on one hand this shows the value of having a testing system in place it’s also a reminder of the reality that testing alone will not prevent disruption to education caused by the virus.

Mrs Summerfield said: ‘We did all our tests last week and had one positive result. However yesterday we had one positive home test which resulted in me having to send home some students who only came in on Monday.’

One of the main changes since secondary pupils were last in school is the requirement to wear facemasks where social distancing is not possible - including in classrooms.

Mrs Summerfield added: ‘We adopted a policy of wearing facemasks before Christmas so pupils are already used to it.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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