Attendance at Hampshire schools is exceptionally good and above the national average, despite the fears relating to COVID-19. The week ending 18 September 2020 saw: 91% of primary aged children attending Hampshire schools compared to 86% nationally; and 92% of secondary aged pupils compared to 88% nationally. Many absences are explained by the need to continue shielding because a pupil has a serious medical condition or a pupil has one of the more usual childhood illnesses.
Councillor Roz Chadd, the Executive Member for Education and Skills at Hampshire County Council, said: “As a parent myself, I can fully understand that there may have been anxiety about the return to school following lockdown and the school summer holidays. It is fantastic to hear that any apprehension seems to have rapidly dispersed leading to such a high number going back to school at the beginning of the autumn term.
“I’m most especially pleased, to hear from schools, that any impact on pupils’ health and wellbeing, including their mental health, appears to be minimal. Pupils have settled in well and have quickly adapted to the new arrangements in place at school to prevent the spread of infection. More importantly, children have been telling me how happy they are to be back in the classroom with their class mates and teachers, not to mention how good it is for them to be with their friends again.”
In preparation for the new term, all schools carried out detailed risk assessments to put in place whatever they needed to, to welcome children back to a COVID-19 safe school and prevent the virus spreading. Those arrangements vary from school to school, depending on the size and layout of their sites, as well as the ages and number of children attending, but they include:
• Placing children in distinct ‘bubbles’ (groups) to be maintained throughout the school day
• Operating a one-way system around the school site
• Staggering the start and end of the school day
• Staggering break times
• Building time for frequent handwashing in the daily timetable
• Additionally, providing hand sanitiser in strategic areas of the building
• Frequent reminders to Catch It, Bin It, Kill It
• Additional cleaning of school buildings.
Ahead of children returning to school, the County Council’s Director for Public Health, Simon Bryant, stated that children are far less likely to be affected by coronavirus, citing a Public Health England Study which showed that those aged under 16 years old, accounted for just 1.1 per cent of 130,000 confirmed coronavirus cases during the first wave of the virus.