Barking and Dagenham education chief warns against complacency as Covid-19 cases rise

Transport was the most complained about service in the borough, the annual local government ombudsma

Transport was the most complained about service in the borough, the annual local government ombudsman report reveals - Credit: photo: Arnaud Stephenson

A town hall education chief has warned against complacency over Covid-19 infections.

Jane Hargreaves, commissioning director for education in Barking and Dagenham, issued the warning at an overview and scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, March 31.

Ms Hargreaves said: "Infection is creeping up in the borough and that is reflected in schools.

"The ratio between staff and children is wider. We can't be complacent about infection in the community."

She added that director of public health Matthew Cole is working with schools in areas where the council is seeing "a bit of a surge".


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As of March 30, cases have increased in the borough, pushing the seven-day rate up to 68.1 per 100,000 - the highest in London.

Town hall figures for schools reveal in the week beginning March 15, a total of 47 pupils and nine teachers tested positive for the virus.

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The number of pupils and teachers testing positive in the week beginning March 8 - when schools reopened fully to all students - was 18 and three respectively.

There are 6,000 school staff and about 40,000 pupils in Barking and Dagenham.

At the highest point in December, there were 458 cases of the virus in schools, councillors heard.

Cllr Evelyn Carpenter, cabinet member for educational attainment and school improvement at Barking and Dagenham Council, thanked schools and nurseries for their "tireless work" over the last 12 months.

She praised schools, children's social care, businesses and voluntary organisations for working together in the pandemic, saying: "We are definitely building back better here."

But she added: "There is still much we don't know about the impact of Covid on young people. It will take a very long time to recover and catch up. There is no quick fix here."

A survey of youngsters from Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge in July showed one in four worried about their mental health.

One in three reported feeling concern for their physical health, family and friendships.

An advice scheme for youngsters who don't meet the threshold for intervention from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, but who schools are concerned about, is to continue.

The meeting heard Barking and Dagenham headteachers estimate about 8,000 pupils do not have sufficient access to an appropriate device to enable them to learn online.

Additionally, about 4,000 do not have sufficient broadband, the study notes. 

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