High school latest to close after four staff members test positive
- Credit: Archant
A Norwich high school has been forced to close early for Christmas after 25 members of staff were affected by a coronavirus outbreak.
Pupils at Hellesdon High School have been sent home and will continue lessons via remote learning for the remainder of the final week of term.
The school, which has 1,154 pupils and is part of the Wensum Trust, said it had been notified that four members of staff had tested positive and a further 21 staff members are now required to self-isolate at home in line with government guidance.
It follows a recent “significant number” of Covid-19 cases in Year 11.
The school said it was liaising closely with Public Health England and the Norfolk Outbreak Management Team to “determine the best course of action”.
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But in a letter to parents school principals Mike Earl and Tom Rolfe said: “As you know our priority continues to be the safety of all our students, staff and families. For this reason we have decided, in conjunction with the Wensum Trust, to close the school with immediate effect and to move to the remote learning platform for all year groups.
“A thorough deep clean of the school will also be taking place immediately.”
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The school is one of 13 across Norfolk either totally or partially closed, according to Norfolk County Council.
Caister Infants and Juniors and Cantley Primary School are all closed with children learning remotely from home, while Bunwell Primary School is also shut due to staffing shortages as a result of Covid-19.
Hethersett Primary School has closed following advice and support given by Public Health England and the Norfolk Outbreak Management Team as it is “regrettably not able to remain open during the current outbreak due to operational limitations and high levels of Covid-19 in the school”.
Others affected include Martham Academy, which has closed for Year 3 and nursery children due to positive case and staff shortages, and St Clements Hill Primary Academy in Norwich where reception classes are closed due to a positive case.
Dozens more schools have been affected by coronavirus cases and staffing issues are people are required to self-isolate.
Latest Department for Education statistics show how the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has hit education in every region this term.
This region had seen the highest attendance throughout for most of the autumn term but it has fallen in recent weeks.
Attendance in primaries had dipped to about 83pc in mid-November, before beginning to climb again. But secondary schools have fared much worse. Norfolk secondary schools have averaged attendance of between 85pc and 90pc this term.
Headteachers have been told they can end term a day early for an extra inset day this week, however schools planning to allow pupils to learn remotely in the run-up to Christmas were warned they could face legal action.
New powers introduced through the Coronavirus Act mean those failing to comply after being directed to remain open could see education secretary Gavin Williamson apply for a High Court injunction forcing them to do so.
The Department for Education (DfE) said directions under the act would only be used as a "last resort", while a court order would be the "final stage" if they were not followed.
Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, and a former head in Bury St Edmunds, criticised the approach.
He said: "It marks a low moment when a government threatens legal action against its own school and college leaders, all of whom have worked tirelessly throughout this crisis to make sense of last-minute and chaotic decisions from Westminster."
In the letter to parents, the Hellesdon High School principals said closing the school had been a last resort.
“We understand that this decision will impact on families, but we feel that the only safe and secure option for our school community is to close the school for the remaining four days of term,” they added.