A leading Labour councillor has questioned why the names of schools that send pupils home as a result of Covid-19 are classed as 'confidential'.

Cllr Judi Billing, leader of the opposition Labour group in Hertfordshire, raised concerns that councillors were not being told when a school in their area closed – fully or partially – as a result of Covid-19.

At a meeting of the county council’s resources and performance cabinet panel, on October 1, Cllr Billing revealed that councillors were now being sent lists of schools where there were 'incidents'.

But she questioned why that information was marked as 'confidential' – and she asked who it should be kept from.

After recounting her initial request for the information, she said: ’. . .  it’s massively important that we as county councillors representing our communities know what’s going on in the schools around us.

"But the extraordinary thing about this document […] is that it says it is confidential.

"I don’t understand how our Covid responses and information about schools can possibly be confidential – since every parent and every child has to know what is going on in their schools.

"So from whom is it confidential? Who is it I mustn’t share it with?"

At the meeting, executive member for resources and performance Cllr Ralph Sangster said the question would need to be addressed to whoever had issued the data.

He said: "The person who issued the information signified it as confidential. And I can’t,  and I am sure others can’t, determine why that was confidential – only the person who issued it."

But following the meeting, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said the lists were confidential because of the risk to personal data.

He said: "We’ve provided all county councillors with a list of schools in the county that have had at least one Covid case since the start of term, so that they are aware of the situation in the county.

"We’ve asked councillors to keep this list confidential as publishing a breakdown of information about schools and the number of people affected by coronavirus in a school community could lead to a significant risk of personal data being disclosed, which would be unlawful."

St Albans & Harpenden Review:

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The Local Democracy Reporter Service has repeatedly requested  information on the schools that have  had to close from the county council – without success.

And those requests are now being considered by the county council under Freedom of Information legislation.

Data released last month suggested daily attendance levels in secondary schools in Hertfordshire varied between 85.5 per cent and 94.4 per cent during the week commencing September 7 - with primary school attendance between 85.8 per cent and 87 per cent.

Average attendance in the autumn term last year is reported to be 95.6 per cent.

The data also shows that as of September 16, 35 schools in the county had been affected by Covid-19 infection.