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School leaders call for ‘robust contingency plan’ following coronavirus outbreak at Suffolk academy

PUBLISHED: 05:30 08 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:44 08 September 2020

Geoff Barton, former head of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds and the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has welcomed the new rules. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Geoff Barton, former head of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds and the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has welcomed the new rules. Picture: GREGG BROWN

School leaders have called on the Government to set up a “robust contingency plan” to help pupils as a Suffolk school remains closed for a second day.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson  Picture: Joe Giddens/PA WireEducation secretary Gavin Williamson Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill remains closed to pupils this morning after members of staff tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Monday afternoon the school confirmed that three classes of school pupils at the school had been asked to self-isolate after eight members of staff were confirmed to have the virus.

Headteacher Andy Hunter said it was important to keep the school closed while some staff awaited further test results.

Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONSSecretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

MORE: School to remain closed as coronavirus outbreak sees 90 pupils self-isolate

The news of the school’s continued closure came as educations leaders called for more to be done by the Government to help affected students.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was important that the Government had a contingency plan so that such closures didn’t impact on exam age pupils.

“Nobody was under any illusions about the threat posed by coronavirus, and the likelihood that there would be outbreaks and that schools would have to close from time to time,” said Mr Barton.

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“Our thoughts are with all those who are affected.

“Schools have done a fantastic job in welcoming back pupils as safely as possible, but it is impossible to eliminate entirely the risks of transmission either in school or the wider community. It is therefore likely that disruption will continue over the coming weeks and months in schools around the country.

“This shows the necessity for a robust contingency plan in case students are unable to take GCSE and A-level exams next summer or their preparation is significantly disrupted. The government must take action now on such a back-up plan before time runs out.”

The case was brought up on Monday in the House of Commons by Labour MP Matt Western, he said: “Just in the last week, a few days ago at the start of term, we’ve had 46 cases in schools across the UK.

“In Scotland, there were 86 cases, a total of 158 schools already have cases.

“In a Suffolk school, five teachers, I think it’s in (Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s) own constituency, five teachers and the school has had to close.

“Is (Mr Williamson) confident the Government really has this under control?”

Mr Williamson responded: “Very much so and if I draw (Mr Western’s) attention to the joint letter by the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, what they were pointing out is that children are best served by being in school.”

He also told MPs that schools will only ever be closed as an “absolute last resort”.

Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, suggested on Monday that young people under 25 - particularly those aged 17-21 - have helped to propel the rise in positive coronavirus cases across the country in recent days.

Speaking on LBC Radio, he said: “nobody wants to see a second wave” in the UK and that a recent surge in cases was “concerning”.
There were a further 2,988 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Sunday - the largest daily figure since May.
Mr Hancock admitted there have been “operational issues” over testing, when probed about people being asked to travel long distances.

Mr Hancock did not respond to calls for comment on the situation in Haverhill from this newspaper.


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