Attendance falls in Falkirk schools as pupils tested for Covid-19

Attendance at Falkirk schools dipped this week to below 90 per cent as schools “took no chances” and sent many children home to be tested for Covid-19.

By Kirsty Paterson
Friday, 4th September 2020, 10:44 am

At its peak, there were around 150 pupils a day absent, the Director of Children’s Services, Robert Naylor, reported to members of Falkirk Council’s emergency executive this week.

That number, however, has gradually fallen as parents and schools are becoming more confident about differentiating between Covid symptoms and those of the common cold.

Mr Naylor told councillors that absences were now around 60 or 70 each day.

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Schools "haven't been taking any chances" when children become unwell

So, far around 800 pupils have been tested and none have been positive.

The director said there had been one case where a school child tested positive but that contact tracing had established that had been “through a weekend contact out of school”.

In the first week of schools returning, 97 per cent of pupils returned in the first week.

This fell to an average of 93.6 per cent in the first ten days, which was just slightly lower than absence rate for the same period in 2019.

However, in a verbal report the director of Children’s Services reported that attendance had fallen briefly to below 90 per cent.

He said: “It is important to understand that there has been a changing and emerging picture over the course of the last two to three weeks in terms of concerns around children being symptomatic.

“Over the course of the first couple of weeks, we had prepared our staff to be extraordinarily vigilant and the advice from NHS Forth Valley was essentially to take no chances with this.

“So in the first couple of weeks there was a significant number of children who required to go home for testing because they had displayed one of the symptoms associated with Covid.

“Thus far, we have had no positive cases of children in school.

“I’m aware of one case where a school child tested positive but the contact tracing established that had been through a weekend contact out of school, so we have had no cases of children being positive in school.”

Nationally, Scottish government figures showed that attendance was down to 84.5 per cent in some areas of the country.

Professor Jason Leitch, the national clinical director, wrote to all parents to remind them of the symptoms to look out for when deciding whether to get a child tested.

He reassured parents that while it is vital to be vigilant for the symptoms of Covid, it is common for infections to circulate after a prolonged break.

Councillor Adanna McCue, the SNP’s education spokesperson, said: “At this time of year there are always infections and I really feel for the staff involved – as well as the parents – who are having to make these decisions.”

Yesterday, NHS Forth Valley confirmed that its Test and Protect team is carrying out COVID-19 contact tracing in Balfron High School near Stirling after a young person who attends the school tested positive for the virus.

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