‘Keep children at home’ plea – as twice as many pupils attend York schools than did in the first lockdown

The number of pupils attending York schools during this lockdown is double the number of key worker children in class during the first lockdown last year.

City of York Council has made arrangement for some pupils to go to a different school than the one they usually attend because space has become so limited – but a spokesperson said no pupils have currently been moved.

The council is urging anyone who can keep their child at home to do so, even if they qualify as a critical worker.

Government updated its list of who qualifies as a critical worker on January 8, which resulted in more parents or carers being able to send their children to school during the lockdown.

Maxine Squire, assistant director of education at the council, said primary schools are under more pressure than secondary schools in the city.

She said: “Attendance figures differ from school to school, but on average we have just under 40% occupancy rates across primary schools, which compares with under 20% occupancy during the first lockdown in 2020.

“In line with messages from the government, we would encourage any parents and carers who are critical workers should keep their children at home if possible and only use a school place if they have no other options available.

“If you qualify as a critical worker but can manage to have your children at home we would urge you to do so.

“The fewer children we have in schools will help in our collective efforts to stop the spread of the virus.”

‘It’s an issue’

Amanda Hatton from the council told an outbreak board meeting: “Some of our schools have had more children in than they had in lockdown one.

“It’s an issue for some of our smaller primary schools because their physical buildings are quite small and it’s quite difficult to have high numbers of children in that space.

“So we’ve been working with York Schools and Academies Board, as we’ve done right through the pandemic, to look at how we can offer places to as many key worker children as possible, safely, and in some circumstances that’s been offering them a place in a different school so that we can enable some of those children to be able to access education.”

She praised schools and added: “I think it’s fair to say that the first week back was difficult, while we were working out how this was all going to work. But this week things do feel a lot smoother.”

Secondary school pupils who are attending classes can get a regular symptom-free Covid test and more than 520 tests have already been taken by students. Staff working in education and early years can also get tested.