The South Yorkshire area where seven times more children are attending school compared to the first lockdown

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The number of children attending Barnsley schools in the current lockdown has increased sevenfold, compared to the March lockdown.

During the first national lockdown in March 2020, the government closed schools to all except key workers or vulnerable children, in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

However, Department of Education statistics suggest many more children are physically attending school during the current lockdown.

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On March 24, only 795 youngsters in Barnsley went to school, with the majority being home schooled.

More children are attending school in Barnsley than did during the first lockdownMore children are attending school in Barnsley than did during the first lockdown
More children are attending school in Barnsley than did during the first lockdown

However, on January 11, 5,846 pupils attended schools – seven times more.

Government guidance states that “only vulnerable children and young people and the children of critical workers” should attend school, and all other pupilsshould learn remotely until February half term.

The National Education Union and UNISON have written to education secretary Gavin Williamson raising concerns about the effect a significant extension to the number of pupils allowed back into school will have on Coronavirus transmission rates.

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Jon Richards, UNISON head of education said: “No one wants to see pupils’ education disrupted but it’s vital there’s total confidence in school safety.

“Staff and the wider community need to be sure that increasing the numbers through school doors isn’t going to drive up infection rates.

“The majority being asked to go into schools will be support staff, many of whom are in higher risk groups.

Unions need to see the science behind government decisions so anxious school staff are assured this is based on safety rather than politics.

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“The government mustn’t create further risks for people living in the poorest areas.”

Councillor Margaret Bruff, spokesperson for children’s services at Barnsley Council said: “Data from the Department for Education shows that on Monday 11 January, 5,846 pupils attended school in Barnsley. This did not include seven schools who did not provide data, nor does it include three independent special schools.

“It’s clear that many more children are attending school now than did during the first lockdown period at the start of the pandemic. For example on 24 March 2020 there were 795 children in Barnsley schools.

“The more people who stay at home the less chance the virus has to spread. We’d urge parents to pay attention to government guidance which says children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker can go to school or college if required, but parents and carers should keep their children at home if they can. The full guidance is available on the government’s website.”

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.