Pupils sent home as schools struggle to cope with Covid cases

Headteachers say they're facing an increasingly tough challenge to keep schools running and they're frustrated by the way the government is handling the pandemic. 

As many as nine schools in Kent have now closed for two weeks due to Covid cases and the need for isolation. Dozens more across the South have had to send pupils, classes or whole year groups home.School leaders have stepped up a campaign to lobby MPs for public backing as they call for more help.

The Headteacher of Herne Junior School at Petersfield in Hampshire says he has 30 pupils from Year 5 at home for two weeks now following the school's first positive case of Covid.

It all comes amid mounting pressure for national tests including A Levels and GCSEs to be cancelled in England because of all the learning lost.  The Worth Less? campaign which began in Sussex and now represents headteachers all over the country is calling for the government to rethink its plans for exams to go ahead next summer.

Peter Woodman, headteacher of The Weald at Billingshurst says with pupils missing varying amounts of schooling it will be unfair.

Many pupils due to sit national tests at the end of primary school next summer say they think it's unfair too.

Headteachers also want to know when they'll be reimbursed for the extra costs they've incurred because of Covid. Many have spent thousands on barriers and extra equipment including outdoor sinks to make their schools Covid secure.

There are many ongoing costs too. At Herne Junior School the amount they are paying out on paper towels alone has gone up five-fold as 480 pupils wash their hands several times a day.

The Department for Education says money is available - AND they are paying for pupils to have extra help to catch up.

The government has made it a national priority to get all pupils back into school full-time as it is the best place for their education and wellbeing. On average the cost to schools to become covid-secure will have been a relatively small proportion of their core funding for each pupil.

Department for Education

The government say they are putting £1 billion into helping pupils catch up with the National Tutoring Programme. They are also making emergency funding available to schools for exceptional costs such as the cost of additional cleaning measures and keeping schools open during the holidays.