SCHOOLS in Bury now have the second best attendance rates in the region.

Between 4,000 and 4,500 pupils have now returned to school out of a total cohort of 29,000 young people aged four to 16 across the borough.

Bury Council directors claim this is one of the best rates in the North West.

The news was revealed at a meeting on Tuesday at which council bosses set out the local authority’s strategy on “resetting” the education service in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis which meant schools were shut to most.

Julien Kramer, interim assistant director for education and inclusion, updated the safeguarding sub-committee at a virtual meeting via video conference.

He said: “It’s not a race, but we are the second best attending authority in the region after Southport.

“I didn’t want to be the first to get everybody back, I wanted to be the safest.”

The majority of primary schools partially reopened by June 15 and in that week, there were approximately 2,700 children in school each day.

This comes after Bury Council was among the first local authorities in the country to tell headteachers not to welcome more children back until it was safe to do so despite government guidance regarding reopening on June 1.

Together with vulnerable children and pupils whose parents are key workers, Reception, Year 1 and 6 have also started attending primary schools again.

There are currently up to 400 Year 10 pupils attending secondary schools.

Sandra Bruce, asssistant director for early help and school readiness, also confirmed around 60 per cent of early years providers have now reopened.

Education bosses also revealed that around 900 laptops have been provided to schoolchildren using funding from government and Greater Manchester.

In some cases, the local authority has had to provide “dongles” so that pupils can access the internet on their laptops to complete school work remotely.

One-off funding will be available to schools during the next academic year through the National COVID-19 Catch Up government grant  to support “catch up” due to lost teaching time, according to a report presented by Mr Kramer.

It said: “The scheme recognises that all children and young people will have lost time in education as a result of the pandemic.

“This means that additional support can be provided both to disadvantaged pupils and more widely to address gaps in learning and so raise attainment.”

Some of this funding may be used to fund summer activities at schools.