County council refuses to reveal which Herts schools have closed due to Covid

Hundreds of schoolchildren are self-isolating due to Covid concerns. Photo: THINKSTOCK

Hundreds of schoolchildren are self-isolating due to Covid concerns. Photo: THINKSTOCK - Credit: © Royalty-Free/CORBIS

Hundreds of children have already been sent home from school to self-isolate due to coronavirus concerns – less than two weeks after the start of the autumn term.

They are part of classes or year groups that have been sent home as part of precautions to halt the spread of COVID-19.

But education bosses at the county council are refusing to publish a list of schools that are, or have been, partially or fully closed – saying the information is ‘confidential’.

And they have also refused to release any data they have on the number of pupils absent for Covid-related reasons.

The failure to publish the information locally has been slammed by Labour’s education spokesperson – and leader of the council’s Labour group – Cllr Judi Billing.

A secondary school in her area had closed this week, after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19.

But she only found out about the closure by chance, when she was informed by members of her own family.

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She said: “As a local county councillor I find it astonishing that I am not being given that information, in order to help and support constituents in my town with whatever is happening.

“I want to be assured that at least the local county councillor is getting the information.

“Obviously the schools tell parents and children – so it can’t be classed as confidential. Or are we asking parents to sign the Official Secrets’ Act?

“We need to know what is happening in our schools. We have no information.”

A county council spokesperson said the names of the schools that were sending home pupils to self-isolate could not be made public because of the “confidentiality” of those involved.

The council has also declined to share any attendance data they have, which is routinely collected from individual schools by the Department for Education.

“The Department for Education is collecting attendance data from all schools.

“We use this data, alongside additional confidential data to offer operational support and advice to schools.

“We expect the Department for Education will be publishing the data.

“All schools are working to the guidelines set by national government, and adapting those to suit the size, layout and number of pupils in their particular school.

“We are aware than a number of schools across Hertfordshire have asked pupils to self-isolate following direct advice from Public Health England.

“This is in line with national government policy and the NHS has useful advice for parents who find themselves in this position ”

Meanwhile, responding to Cllr Billing’s concerns, executive member for education, libraries and localism Cllr Terry Douris said: “I am concerned not to heap more pressure upon schools, so I would encourage members to stay close to the schools in their division and liaise with other councillors in the vicinity.”