Essex school unauthorised absence numbers vanish through Covid-19 lockdown

Child at a school desk

Child in school. - Credit: Jacob King/ PA Wire

The number of unauthorised absences from schools in Essex almost vanished following a year of lockdown.

Figures from Essex County Council show just six penalty notices were issued between March 8, 2021 and April 1, 2021 – compared to the 688 issued between March 11, 2019 and April 5, 2019.

The dramatic decline in the number of fines however comes after a year of most parents having their children at home continuously, as well as a backdrop of travel restrictions.

On Monday, March 8 schools were finally allowed to fully re-open to pupils as lockdown restrictions partially lifted across the country.

In an effort to increase the confidence of coronavirus being kept out of classrooms, twice-weekly testing – using rapid lateral flow tests – were made available to adults in all households with primary, secondary school and college aged children and young people, including childcare and support bubbles.


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Essex families with school-age children have been encouraged to access the free home tests and take part in regular testing to help identify more asymptomatic Covid-19 cases and quickly break chains of transmission before they enter schools and colleges.

Twice-weekly testing is also offered to adults working in the wider school community, including bus drivers and after school club leaders.

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Individuals can only take part if they, their household or bubble do not have coronavirus symptoms or have not been told to self-isolate.

Soon after schools returned a snapshot of more than 700 secondary schools found take-up of Covid tests as being between 90 percent to 100 percent in more than half of schools, and of between 80 percent and 90 percent in a quarter. But in about one in 20 schools, take-up for testing was below 60 percent of pupils.

While the attendance figures appear to show a high degree of confidence in the safety measures in schools, parents have had less reason to remove their children from school without permission given the travel restrictions in place.

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