Two schools close after parent contracts coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 17:45 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:18 16 March 2020
All schools in Norfolk remain open but are making preparations for potential closures, while others are introducing extra coronavirus measures including limiting parent access.
Head teachers are pressing ahead with ways to continue teaching in the event of a coronavirus shutdown including introducing online lessons in a bid to avoid disruption to pupils’ education.
The UK is one of a number of coronavirus-hit countries not to issue a nationwide closure of schools in response to the pandemic.
Many more - including France, Spain and the Republic of Ireland - have taken the measure.
However Clover Hill Infant and Nursery School and St Michael’s Junior School in Bowthorpe in Norwich will be 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.
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National school leaders meet the Education Secretary on Monday to discuss the implications of schools being closed and exams being postponed.
Gavin Williamson held discussions with representatives from the NAHT school leaders’ union, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the Confederation of School Trusts (CST).
Norfolk County Council said it in close liaison with the Department of Education and would be following any additional measures that came out of the meeting.
Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk, told BBC Radio Norfolk: “The government has been very clear that their strategy at the moment is not to close schools. There are a number of reasons for that.
“The first is that we are not seeing significant or severe infections in children. The second is that, if we were to try to stop transmission through children, we’d need to close schools for quite a long time, so we’d need to balance that against the impact it might have on children’s education.
“The final reason is that our whole strategy of what we need to be doing now is everything we can to reduce the demand on health and social care services.
“If we close the schools, there is a large number of parents out there who work in that sector who are busy looking for childcare.”
Closing schools may also have the effect of children going to stay with grandparents at a time when older people might be most vulnerable.
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The government has said individual schools may be advised to shut by Public Health England if necessary.
All schools in Norfolk have been issued with advice on what to do if a member of staff, pupil or visitor becomes unwell and is believed to have been exposed to Covid-19. It states once the ill person has left the site for testing, all surfaces that they have come into contact with must be thoroughly cleaned, including floors, chairs, toilets, door handles and telephones.
Hethersett Academy is one of the schools already making plans for teaching to continue online even if it is forced to close.
A letter to parents today states: “If schools were told to close we would educate all students online using Google Classroom. We would aim to follow a full school day, including taught lessons.
“Through Google Classroom we can teach lessons, share work with students, and receive work back from students for marking. This would mean we could continue to run a full school day, which all students would be expected to attend.”
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Other schools are introducing extra coronavirus precautions.
At Colman Infant and Junior Schools in Norwich, headteacher Julie Sandford wrote to parents to say upcoming parent teacher consultations had been cancelled together with after-school clubs, sports events and school trips, including a Year 2 trip to Amazona Zoo.
She said: “Schools have been directed to remain open and I need to ensure that both children and staff are as safeguarded as possible.
“All additional activities other than in-school teaching and learning will not be taking place for the rest of term.”
The family of a child at Lodge Lane Infant School in Old Catton are all self-isolating after being in contact with a family member confirmed to have Covid-19.
The school said Public Health England had advised it remains open, including the Cheeky Monkeys Breakfast Club.
Toftwood Infant and Junior School in Dereham has written to parents to say its water fountains will not be in use from today and that pupils will be allowed to bring a hand sanitiser.
Its advice also asks: “When bringing your child to and collecting your child from school, can we please ask that only one person per family comes with the child.
“Evidently, you may need to bring younger children, but in terms of adults, please limit this to one person per family.
The exam season starts in early May, when the virus outbreak is expected to reach its peak, but at the moment exam regulators are urging schools to prepare for public exams as normal.
GCSE exams start in the second week of May and run until mid-June.
Meanwhile a leading headteachers’ union has called on the government to immediately halt all Ofsted inspections.
Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, Geoff Barton, who was formerly headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said it was not a time for “business as usual”.
With the exception of establishments where there are specific safeguarding concerns, he said the government should move to suspend all routine inspections.
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