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UPDATE: Head fears spread to other schools of sickness bug that forced closure of North Elmham Primary

PUBLISHED: 14:14 21 July 2014 | UPDATED: 14:14 21 July 2014

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The headteacher of a mid-Norfolk school, which has had to close today due to an “aggressive” sickness bug, fears the end of the summer term may be ruined for dozens of children in the district.

Keith Wright took the difficult decision to close North Elmham Primary School after it became clear that there would be so many teachers off sick that they would not have adequate cover to supervise the “well” children.

He said that he was also notified of around 25 to 30 children who were coming down with the virus, which is about a quarter of the school, and felt the best course of action was to organise a deep-clean of the school buildings to minimise the risk of further infection.

He said: “We had a small number of children off sick at the end of last week but we can manage a small bout of illness. But when I started getting phone calls and texts from staff coming down with it I felt there was enough concern of a virus outbreak to close the school.

“I have heard that quite a few communities in the Dereham area are affected so I won’t be surprised if other schools find themselves in this situation before the end of term.”

Mr Wright said it was particularly disappointing timing as the children had done all their tests and assessments and were looking forward to the last few days of term with school plays and leavers’ events for the Year 6s.

“We are hopeful that we will open on Tuesday,” he said. “We at least want the Year 6s to say their farewells. We have a fabulous team of staff who are never off sick lightly but the wellbeing of our children is very important. We won’t take any chances with their health.”

Mr Wright said he was liaising with Breckland Council over the implications of reopening and was aware of the impact on parents with regards childcare.

But said he felt it was the right decision to close having spoken to public health agencies as this particular virus seemed to be very aggressive and was causing people to fall ill very quickly, but normally recovery would start within 24 hours.

A spokesman for Public Health England said that sickness and diarrhoea was not a notifiable illness but they had distributed a gastroenteritis factsheet to parents at the school which gives advice on how best to avoid transmitting the virus and when it would be safe for their children to return to lessons.

* Are you affected by the school closure? Email kathryn.cross@archant.co.uk

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