Hundreds of pupils across the UK were self-isolating yesterday after a string of Covid-19 outbreaks in schools.
Some schools were forced to close entirely but Education Secretary Gavin Williamson insisted the Government is ‘very much’ in control of the safe return of students.
Dozens of schools across England and Wales reported cases of the virus, resulting in children and staff being sent home.
At least three shut completely while others delayed their openings or told dozens of youngsters to stay away from lessons.
However, outbreaks have only happened in a small proportion of the UK’s more than 30,000 schools.
A school visited by Boris Johnson on August 26 (pictured) – Castle Rock High School in Coalville, Leicestershire – put a number of pupil groups into self-isolation ‘as a precaution’ after a staff member tested positive
Cases emerged yesterday after primaries and secondaries began reopening to all year groups last week for the first time since March, with the remainder due to open this week.
A school visited by Boris Johnson on August 26 – Castle Rock High School in Coalville, Leicestershire – put a number of pupil groups into self-isolation ‘as a precaution’ after a staff member tested positive. During his visit, Mr Johnson had said that ‘continuing to be out of school’ was the biggest risk to children.
Yesterday in a House of Commons session with Mr Williamson, Labour MP Matt Western said: ‘Just in the last week, 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.’
He asked: ‘Is [Mr Williamson] confident the Government really has this under control?’ The Education Secretary responded ‘very much so’ and told MPs schools will only be shut as an ‘absolute last resort’.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said yesterday it was ‘impossible’ to eliminate the risks of transmission in school or the wider community.
He added: ‘It is therefore likely that disruption will continue over the coming weeks and months.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘The very small number of schools asking some or all of their pupils to remain at home are following our clear published process following a positive case being confirmed.’
The Suffolk school referred to by Mr Western – the Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill – closed yesterday but said it hoped to reopen today.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured) insisted the Government is ‘very much’ in control of the safe return of students
As many as 200 pupils across eight Liverpool schools are self-isolating for 14 days after confirmed coronavirus cases.
Old Buckenham High School in Norfolk closed after a member of staff tested positive, according to the BBC education website. It will reopen after a deep clean.
In Middlesbrough, Hemlington Hall Academy was closed to reception and nursery children yesterday after a member of staff went home with suspected symptoms on Friday. The affected classes will not be allowed to return until September 21.
Cases have also been confirmed at three schools in the surrounding area. The city was added to the official Covid-19 watchlist as an ‘area of concern’ on Friday.
Six schools in Sunderland announced partial closures while a seventh in the area shut fully.
The JCB Academy in Rocester, Staffordshire, shut on Friday after a pupil tested positive and around 100 students are self-isolating.
Schools in East Sussex, South London, Leeds and Nottingham have also closed to some year groups or delayed reopening, forcing pupils into self-isolation, after teachers tested positive.
Year One pupils at Newsham Primary School, Blyth, Northumberland, have been asked to self-isolate after a child tested positive. The school had only reopened last Wednesday.
In Wales, at least eight schools were believed to have been affected by coronavirus since reopening. Schools in Scotland have been open since mid-August.
- A survey of students today reveals 70 per cent fear catching coronavirus when they return to campuses from this month.
Many also complain of a lack of support and up-to-date advice from their universities.