The Department for Education has failed to report numbers of children returning to school in Milton Keynes to the local authority despite the need to control Covid-19.
A number of schools across the city re-opened to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils last week as the Government eased lockdown restrictions, but the centralised system the Government has asked schools to use to report attendance has not been available for a week. The Council has said it would not force schools open, or pupils to return who did not feel safe to do so.
All schools have been asked to report numbers attending school in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to a central Government database. The system was not operational for a number of days last week and local authorities have not been able to access the system to review data since it did go live.
As the Government seek a more local approach to managing future outbreaks, this information is vital to help the Council understand how many children are attending school, ensuring vulnerable children are being cared for, and to help control a potential second wave of the disease.
The Prime Minister has claimed that the steps to ease lockdown are only possible due to new systems being in place to control a possible second wave of Covid-19, such as Track & Trace.
The Council is therefore currently relying on individual schools to report information directly to them, with a number of schools not doing so.
Cllr Zoe Nolan, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “We are currently unable to access data which will tell us formally which schools are open and how many pupils are attending. The failure of the Government to be able to provide us with this information undermines our requirement to keep children safe and be able to control Covid-19 locally.”
She continued: “Our main concern is protecting vulnerable children, and this is made more difficult with a lack of proper data. The Government are very clear that in order to be able to manage Covid-19 they want to take a more local approach, but how can we do that if we don’t even know how many children are attending, and if a school is even open? We have a situation where a local school seems to have closed but neither Milton Keynes Council nor Public Health England have been made aware. It is very concerning.”
She concluded: “If the Government are serious about controlling Covid-19 they need to get a grip and start to provide local authorities with the information and data we need to keep people safe.”