90 school pupils told to self-isolate as eight staff members catch coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 14:54 07 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:43 08 September 2020
ARCHANT/SAMUEL WARD ACADEMY
Three whole classes of school pupils have been asked to self-isolate after eight members of staff at a secondary school tested positive for Covid-19.
Bosses at Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill - which has been closed to staff and pupils today to allow a deep clean to take place - said they first became aware that a member of staff had coronavirus symptoms during a training day last Wednesday, when no children were on site.
On Friday, that same employee tested positive for the disease and staff in the same department were told to go home and get tested.
As of Sunday, five staff members had tested positive, and another three were confirmed as having Covid-19 today, with a further test coming back inconclusive.
Now, 16 members of staff are self-isolating and three full classes of pupils, around 90 students in total, have also been told to quarantine for two weeks. No students have tested positive for the illness, school chiefs said.
The school has asked 79 children in Year 7 and 36 children in Year 10 to self-isolate as a precaution.
MORE: Suffolk school to close as FIVE members of staff test positive for Covid-19
Headteacher Andy Hunter said the school is currently undertaking a thorough review of all contacts that may have taken place between infected members of staff and pupils, staff and the wider school community.
If this has not been completed by 5pm today, he added, the school may need to close for longer than a day. Any decision to extend the school’s closure will be taken by Mr Hunter, Public Health England and Suffolk County Council.
He said: “The safety of our staff, students and their families is paramount.
“We had worked hard to put in place all the measures suggested by Government guidance in preparation for the new school year.
“We are all disappointed by these incidents and the understandable but regrettable decision to close the school temporarily.
“We are looking again at all of our procedures and systems to see where we can make them even tighter to ensure the school is as safe as possible when students return.”
MORE: What lockdown rules are still in place?
Graham White, of the National Education Union, called for mass testing of all staff at the school and said a “full and thorough” investigation was needed to pinpoint the source of the outbreak.
Bosses at the school said mass testing has not been advised by Public Health England – but recommended any staff or pupils with Covid-19 symptoms take a test.
Stuart Keeble, Suffolk’s public health director, said: “This outbreak at the Samuel Ward Academy, unfortunately, highlights that the coronavirus has not gone away. We mustn’t get complacent or comfortable in how we live our lives. The virus is still circulating in Suffolk and people must remember to follow guidance at all times, whether that’s at home, or at work.
“Schools remain the safest place for children. The risk to youngsters’ wellbeing and development by not being in school is much greater than the risk of coronavirus in children.”
An incident management team was set up to tackle the outbreak at Samuel Ward Academy last night. It was formed of officials from Public Health England, Public Health Suffolk, Suffolk County Council’s children and young people’s services and the Unity Schools Partnership, which runs the school.
MORE: People sent hundreds of miles from Suffolk for Covid test as ‘high-risk’ areas made priority
The news comes as health secretary and MP for the area, Matt Hancock, suggested 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.
Whole classes at two schools in Wales have been told to self-isolate for two weeks following confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Speaking on LBC radio on Monday, the West Suffolk MP 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.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it is “impossible” to eliminate entirely the risks of transmission, either in school or the wider community.
The former headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds added: “It is therefore likely that disruption will continue over the coming weeks and months.
“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.”
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