Released: 16 December, 2020
Everyone involved in education has been praised for their considerable effort as new figures put West Sussex school attendance among the very best in the country.
Average attendance across the county’s state-funded primary and secondary schools combined was 91.85% over the autumn term, newly published Department for Education figures show. Primary attendance was 93.6% and secondary at just over 90%, putting West Sussex among only two local authority areas in the country with secondary attendance above 90%.
The number of Children with Education, Health & Care Plans and those with an allocated Social Worker in school since September has also been consistently higher than national average. Ofsted noted in a recent focussed visit of West Sussex children’s services that a higher than national average school attendance ‘was key to helping to ensure that professionals maintained sight of, and contact with, vulnerable children’.
Where pupils have been required to be off school self-isolating due to Covid, schools have provided online learning to ensure a consistency of education as a uniquely challenging term comes to an end.
Nigel Jupp, Cabinet Member for Education & Skills said: “When we reflect on what has now been nine months of living through this pandemic, it is excellent news that our schools, nurseries, colleges and university have been able to continue to operate so successfully. The meticulous planning over the summer to introduce new safety measures and the tireless work of teachers and school staff since has really shown.
"Our education providers have faced huge challenges this term, in managing Covid-19 cases, in some situations having to close and in educating children at home as well as in school. It has been extremely tough but time and again school leaders have risen to the task, putting their children’s safety first, and for that I thank them greatly.
“It’s been difficult for parents and carers too, who have supported schools by being flexible and understanding and most importantly by following the guidelines designed to keep the virus at bay.
“I would also like to thank the Council’s education and skills, children’s and public health staff, who have supported schools and pupils in many ways.
“It is so important for a child’s wellbeing that they are in school as much as possible, so our attendance figures are really encouraging given the unprecedented circumstances. Everyone involved in education in West Sussex has had a role to play and I hope they will enjoy a well-deserved Christmas break.”
Public Health England South East Regional Director Dr Alison Barnett also praised teachers, pupils and parents in what she called a ‘difficult year’.
Dr Barnett said: “The risk to children of becoming severely ill from coronavirus remains very low and the impact of being out of school can be profound and life-long. To ensure we can continue to control numbers and protect our loved ones, it is vitally important that schools, parents and pupils keep to the Covid-19 guidelines as much as possible, both over the holiday period and when they return for the new term in January.
“It’s also worth remembering that about one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and will be spreading it unintentionally.
“This is why it is so important to remember to continue to follow the advice like wearing face-coverings and socially distancing at the school gates and anywhere else where staff, parents and students may mix in the final days of term.”