Coronavirus: Thousands at Peterborough schools self-isolate due to reported Covid-19 cases as government helpline issues ‘poor advice’

Thousands of pupils and staff members at Peterborough schools have self-isolated due to reported Covid-19 cases.

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 5:48 am

From the start of the autumn term on September 3 until October 25 there were 145 reported Covid-19 cases across early years settings, schools and colleges in Peterborough. This led to around 200 staff and 2,689 pupils and students being unable to attend schools.

In a report to members of the city council’s Children and Education Scrutiny Committee, service director for education Jonathan Lewis said: “Schools have dealt with these cases appropriately following Department for Education, Public Health England and local authority guidance.

“Remote learning has been put in place and vulnerable pupils continue to be supported directly.

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Covid-19 testing

“We continue to monitor the weekly local public health data reporting to help inform schools and early years providers of the position around Covid-19, including pillar 2 testing (collected by commercial partners).

“The test and trace process continues to operate well and we are working well with public health to provide advice and guidance to schools.

“Initially in September we had very high numbers of suspected cases but this has now fallen slightly.

“The number of confirmed cases has started to rise but we are dealing with these effectively. We have had no full school closures in this time.”

On October 20, attendance at Peterborough schools was 92.1 per cent - with 93.7 per cent of primary children attending school, compared to 89.7 per cent of secondary school children and 88.5 per cent of pupils at special schools.

The attendance figures in Peterborough were the worst across six districts in Cambridgeshire, but only marginally so.

The report states: “There is an emerging challenges with Covid-19 refusers and understanding what is a cold and what is Covid-19.”

It adds: “Early years settings continue to be open but attendance is currently running at around 70 per cent of the previous year’s attendance as parents remained concerned about Covid-19.

“The local authority is funding settings in line with previous year’s children numbers but this protection will end in January. We continued to be concerned around the viability of the sector although there are only a few closures so far, none which have been directly linked to Covid-19.”

For pupils in Peterborough with an education, health and care plan (EHCP), the attendance rate is 86.9 per cent at special schools, 91.1 per cent in mainstream schools and 71 per cent at mainstream schools/colleges for those aged 16 and above.

The first two figures are comfortably above the East of England average, while the third one is significantly below the average.

The report also reveals that a Department for Education public health helpline for schools to deal with confirmed coronavirus cases has had a detrimental effect.

It states: “In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough our local system was working well but the new DfE approach caused confusion.

“We have also had to correct repeatedly the poor advice from this helpline.”

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.

MP for North West Cambridgeshire Shailesh Vara said: “To the extent that there aren’t proper channels of communication I hope that will be sorted out very quickly.”