Almost half of East Riding pupils who missed school due to Covid were off in January

Almost half of East Riding pupils and staff absent from school due to coronavirus this academic year were off in January, councillors have heard.

By Joe Gerrard (Local Democracy Reporting Service)
Monday, 7th February 2022, 9:16 am
East Riding Council’s Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee heard 6,121 pupils tested positive for coronavirus in January, 44 per cent of the 13,828 who have since September.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee heard 6,121 pupils tested positive for coronavirus in January, 44% of the 13,828 who have since September.

Council Head of Children Penny Donno said January also saw 978 staff test positive, 48% of the 2,007 who have isolated since the start of the academic year.

It comes as the committee heard 1,257 pupils were learning from home in January, 45% off the total since September.

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Councillors also heard Goole’s Reedness Primary School was the only one in the East Riding currently closed due to coronavirus outbreaks.

John Killeen, a representative of teachers’ trade unions who sits on the committee, said stress and fatigue among staff were at the highest levels he had ever seen.

The committee heard stress and fatigue was also plaguing social workers and came as 1,470 working days were lost due to mental health issues from June to December.

Figures show that the vaccination rate among 12 to 15 year olds in East Riding was 65% for first doses as of Tuesday, February 1.

Councillors heard January’s absences were thought to be due to families mixing over Christmas and the New Year and that rates were expected to ease.

Ms Donno said all other schools were currently open and were operating as normal.

She added staff absences due to self-isolation and access to lateral flow tests were the main issues schools were currently facing.

The officer said: “Access to lateral flow tests is improving, ideally primary schools need to be able to order for pupils directly.

“Pupils sent to school who are untested can’t be asked to stay at home.

“Vaccine clinics are in operation and parents can take their children to any centre which is open.

“For staffing, we’re not seeing huge numbers of people unable to work but there are a lot of people having to work from home.

“In social work there’s a couple of people who are poorly but again it’s more people having to isolate.

“What’s happening in children’s social work is that absences are impacting on our ability to deploy people to visits.

“We have continuity plans in place including using non-qualified staff for support so that visits to children and families can take place.

“The problem in children’s social care is the combination of staff sickness and vacancies.

“It doesn’t feel like sickness levels are higher than previously but we’re finding when staff go off its because of stress and fatigue.

“People are incredibly tired, they’ve been working in the context of coronavirus for almost two years now.”

Mr Killeen said schools were particularly struggling with getting supply cover.

The trade union representative said: “We’re seeing at the moment that members of school senior leadership teams are having to teach in classrooms full time which then has a knock on effect to their other work.

“There’s not much more we can do to help ease staff stress, we’re doing as much as we can, the system is under strain.

“The reintroduction of Ofsted visits is also adding to the pressure.”