Monday, 21 Sep 2020

School closures: Will schools close again?

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Schools have adapted to reduce the spread of coronavirus as pupils return for the autumn term this month. However, in the past week, several schools have reported new positive test results for pupils and staff, with some schools closing as a result.

Samuel Ward Academy, in Haverhill in Suffolk, was forced to close on Monday after it was confirmed that five members of the teaching staff had tested positive for coronavirus.

A further two staff are awaiting test results.

The school in Suffolk will be closed to enable a deep clean to be conducted.

Headteacher Andy Hunter is due to devise a plan of action and determine what contact may have taken place between members of staff who tested positive with pupils and the wider school environment.

The JCB Academy in Rocester was the first school to shut down this academic year after a single case of the virus.

The school in Staffordshire welcomed pupils back at the end of August and told students to remain at home on Friday after advice from public health officials.

The academy’s principal said the school was closed “as a precaution” after one student tested positive for COVID-19.

The school reopened today (Monday, September 7) for all but 100 pupils who have been asked to self-isolate for two weeks.

Will schools close again?

Schools are said to have an outbreak of the virus if two or more cases are confirmed within 14 days or if there are a number of children off with suspected COVID-19.

If this happens, schools must work with their local protection teams to devise a plan.

Anywhere with an outbreak may see a mobile testing unit set up.

Testing will begin with the infected student’s class, followed by their year group and then the entire school if necessary.

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In some cases, a larger number of pupils, such as a year group, may have to self-isolate at home as a precaution.

The Government has said closing a school “not generally be necessary”.

However, where it is necessary, pupils who cannot come into school should follow schools home-working plan.

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson emphasised the importance of keeping schools open this winter.

In a video Q&A with parents, the PM confirmed that other public places such as pubs and restaurants would be closed first, with schools shut down as a last resort.

Mr Johnson said: “We’re hoping very much that even if there are local lockdowns, which I’m afraid there almost certainly will be because we are expecting more local spikes, schools should be the very last bit of society that we want to close down again.”

He added: “The evidence is overwhelming that it’s in the interests of the wellbeing and the health of children and young people to be back in school rather than missing out any more.

“So it’s the healthy, safe thing to do.”

Deputy chief medical officer for England Jenny Harries who appeared by Mr Johnson in the Q&A last month supported Mr Johnson’s view and said schools are “controlled environments”.

She said: “There’s a lot of evidence accumulating now that transmission in schools is low: it can happen but it’s not frequent.

“It’s a safe place for them to be. It’s a very controlled environment.”

The recent school closures came as a major PHE report found that turning up to primary or pre-school presents no greater risk to children or staff than staying at home.

However, a recent poll from the National Association of Headteachers found 20 percent of schools leaders said a pupil did not attend school on the first day of term because parents were too afraid of the virus.

Express.co.uk has contacted the Department of Education for comment.

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