More schools hit by coronavirus closures
PUBLISHED: 08:56 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:29 17 March 2020
Schools have been instructed to remain open amid the coronavirus pandemic but some are being forced to tell pupils to stay away.
Despite further social distancing measures announced by the government, Boris Johnson stopped short of announcing school closures - saying that although the measures will remain “under review”, it is “much better” they currently stay open.
However staffing issues amid the growing outbreak are now seeing Norfolk schools forced into total or partial closures.
Among those hit on Tuesday are Hellesdon High School which has introduced a partial close with all Year 9 students told to study at home for the day. The school remains open to students in Years 7, 8, 10, 11, 12 and 13.
At Colman Infant School in Norwich Year 2 classes have been closed today due to staffing issues. The rest of the school remains open.
Stibbard All Saints Primary, near Fakenham, has closed its Year 6.
A message to parents said: “Regretfully we will have to close the Year 6 class today due to staff illness in that class and staff shortages in the school. Only Year 6 is closed.”
“Year 6 is the most important year with SATS coming up.”
MORE: Schools step up coronavirus measures but stay open
It comes as Clover Hill Infant and Nursery School and St Michael’s Junior School in Bowthorpe in Norwich are totally closed on Tuesday for a deep clean after a parent tested positive for coronavirus.
Executive headteacher, Helen McCarney, said no pupil had tested positive but that children were sent home with activities to do on their day off school.
Parents were informed by text message and had praised the swift action to ensure the schools were thoroughly cleaned she said.
“It is important that the community appreciates how seriously we are taking the health and well-being of our children,” she added.
Meanwhile Flegg High Ormiston Academy said it was awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test on a staff member and that parents and staff would “be notified as soon as we have these”.
The academy in Martham, near Great Yarmouth, remains open as usual and the school said it will “continue to act in accordance with the latest guidance from Public Health England and the Department for Education”.
School leaders held talks with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Monday afternoon to discuss the implications of schools being closed and exams being postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Geoff Barton, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary, and Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said staff self-isolating was the “most immediately pressing challenge”.
A joint statement said: “This is clearly a very difficult situation and a very challenging scenario for school leaders, and the government is well aware of our concerns.
“The most immediately pressing challenge is the difficulty in keeping schools open with growing numbers of staff having to self-isolate.
“It is likely that a number of schools will have to close because there are too few staff available to teach, support and supervise children.
MORE: What are symptoms and should I self-isolate?
“We are concerned about the implications for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities as well as children who receive free school meals if a school is closed or they have to self-isolate, and similarly, the wellbeing of vulnerable young people where there are identified safeguarding risks.”
They said they were to hold further talks with Mr Williamson and his officials later this week, and had raised the “crucial question” of SATs, GCSE and A-level exams - currently scheduled for May and June.
Teachers union NASUWT said a lack of advice for schools is creating “chaos and confusion” and placing “intolerable pressure” on staff.
In a statement on Tuesday, acting general secretary Chris Keates said: “All of the announcements continue to be couched as guidance or advice, which is simply serving to increase anxiety and uncertainty.”
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