Coronavirus: Less than two fifths of eligible primary pupils return in second week of reopening

Less than two fifths of eligible pupils had returned to open primary schools by Thursday last week, almost two weeks after the government encouraged primaries to welcome back more children.

The latest attendance data from the Department for Education shows 67 per cent of primary schools had reopened to more pupils by June 11, up from 52 per cent in the first week of wider reopening.

Ministers had asked primary schools to start taking back pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6 from June 1, but schools in many areas chose to delay, citing safety fears.

According to the data, 38.6 per cent of year six pupils were in attendance in open schools as of Thursday, up from 37.3 per cent on June 4.

Prime minister Boris Johnson used the 37 per cent attendance figure for year sixes during prime minister’s questions last week to claim his school reopening plan had been a success.

But the outlook is worse for younger pupils. Today’s data shows that 32.3 per cent of reception pupils and 28.9 per cent of year ones attended open schools last Thursday, up from 30.6 per cent and 25.6 per cent, respectively, the week before.

These percentages are based on the proportion of pupils attending open schools only.

As a proportion of the overall pupil population, 21.9 per cent of reception pupils, 19.6 per cent of year ones and 26.2 per cent of year sixes were back in school as of Thursday.

Overall, 92 per cent of schools were open on June 11, with 868,000 pupils, 9.1 per cent of the total pupil population, in attendance. This is up from 6.9 per cent the previous week.

The proportion of vulnerable pupils – those with an education, health and care plan or a social worker – attending also rose from 15 per cent on June 4, to 18 per cent on June 11.

Overall, 200,000 teaching staff and 280,000 non-teaching staff were in school last Thursday, up from 183,000 and 238,000 respectively.