Covid Sheffield: Councillor calls for urgent action after 3,000 pupils missed school last week

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A Sheffield councillor has urged the Government to take action after a staggering 3,000 pupils were absent from school in the city last week due to Covid.

Sheffield’s Senior Councillor for Education, Children and Families, Jayne Dunn, has now renewed her calls for the Government to take urgent action on ventilation for schools over the surge of Covid cases affecting pupils as well as many members of staff.

Labour has criticised the Government for being ‘too slow to act’ and has consistently called on the Education Secretary to finally deliver the ventilation needed to support schools to prevent transmission within classrooms.

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The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) also highlighted the importance of ventilation in schools to the Government in May 2020, but said the Government has ‘failed to act’ on this advice 20 months on.

3000 children were absent from school in Sheffield last week due to Covid related issues, as well as many members of staff.3000 children were absent from school in Sheffield last week due to Covid related issues, as well as many members of staff.
3000 children were absent from school in Sheffield last week due to Covid related issues, as well as many members of staff.

Labour Councillor Jayne Dunn, Sheffield’s Co-Operative Member for Education, Children and Families said: “At a local level we are doing everything we can to support our schools and limit the transmission of Covid.

“We have been quick to act on public health advice and have consistently been ahead of the Government in providing advice and support.

“I strongly recommended the use of face masks for secondary schools way back in August, whereas Government took months to ask schools to do this.

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“I think we all recognise the importance of continuing face-to-face education wherever possible and I commend the work of school staff in delivering this - with mask wearing, regular testing, and doing what they can to ventilate.

“It is well established that proper ventilation halves the spread of transmission. Yet Government are sitting on their hands and not helping schools. An open window is as good as it can get for many schools, and often that’s not even possible.

“It is outrageous that, in the middle of winter, schools are being left with no option but to open windows just to get adequate ventilation. Sheffield schools and the council are working incredibly hard to support children, but the Government is again treating them as an afterthought”.

Coun Dunn also said she will write to the Secretary of State to ask for greater support for Sheffield schools to fit proper ventilation systems.

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Good systems in place to accommodate those who missed schools

In Sheffield, several schools are already taking appropriate actions to stem the spread of Covid.

Sheffield Park Academy principal Roland Freeman said the school has got ‘good systems in place’ for blended learning, where students are used to learning from home when needed.

Brigantia Learning Trust, which covers Wincobank Infant & Nursery Academy, Concord Junior Academy, Hinde House (2-16) Academy, Yewlands Academy and Longley Park Sixth Form Academy is still operating as normal from the beginning of the Spring Team.

It said: “In addition to recommending the use of face coverings we are also actively promoting the use of LFD testing by both staff and students and encouraging all members of our community to get vaccinated, including the booster.

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“We continue to monitor the ventilation and work with all stakeholders to provide a safe environment for education.”

Tapton School headteacher Kat Rhodes also confirmed that they were affected by staff absences but they have not moved any classes onto remote learning.

She said: “We do have this available for any students who are having to self-isolate but are not unwell.”