A 1,000-pupil academy has become the latest school to close its doors over the coronavirus crisis despite official government advice stating students should not be routinely sent home.
Hilbre High School on the Wirral sent its students home at 12.30pm on Tuesday after headteacher Mark Bellamy decided to close down the school “as a precaution” after a parent with pupils at the school tested positive for Covid-19.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed today 10 schools had closed nationwide, but said schools should not be closing unless there is both a positive case and the school has had the advice to close from Public Health England.
Schools that have reportedly closed include two in Berkshire and five in Devon along with Hilbre High School.
We've published a range of professional #COVID19 guidance for the following sectors:👩⚕️ Health: https://t.co/H7JyK81mD4🚂 Transport: https://t.co/H4cpzmQOkQ👩🎓 Education: https://t.co/P5ZXOoIPh0👨💼 Employers: https://t.co/26kLS2w0bA🏡 Social care: https://t.co/0NFM9fxdUUpic.twitter.com/w6xVjPDLY0
— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) February 27, 2020
Other schools have asked pupils to self-isolate, with many schools having pupils return after the half-term break from school skiing trips to northern Italy, an epicentre of the outbreak in Europe.
Official advice from Public Health England and the Department for Education states even if a case of Covid-19 is confirmed within a school “in most cases, closure of the childcare or education setting will be unnecessary”.
And if a pupil has been in contact with a confirmed case, the advice is to self-isolate at home for 14 days.
The rest of the school does not need to take any precautions or make any changes to their own activities attending educational establishments or work as usual, unless they become unwell, according to official advice.
A statement from Hilbre High School said on Tuesday it had been informed a parent with children at the school had tested positive for coronavirus.
Prior to confirmation that the parent had contracted the virus, a child of the parent had attended the school on Monday, the statement said.
Headteacher Mr Bellamy said: “As a precaution, we are closing Hilbre High School today. I have come to this decision to allow our school community to move forward and ensure that the school is clean for all of our staff and students.
“I can confirm that we have not been asked to close by the local authority or Public Health England.
“Last week, I chose to keep the school open following advice from the Government and Public Health England.
“Today, as I believe this confirmed case directly impacts on my students and staff, it is for this reason I am closing the school.
“Hilbre High School will reopen when I am confident that there is no risk to students following today’s coronavirus confirmation. We expect to reopen on Friday 6th March.
“Once I know the outcome to tests done on the students concerned, I will then be able to make an informed decision about when to reopen.”
During February half-term, a group of Hilbre High School students went on a ski trip to northern Italy but the school stressed that the confirmed case is not connected to the ski trip “at this time”.
Northern Italy has been the region worst hit in Europe by the outbreak, which has seen more than 90,000 confirmed cases globally, with more than 3,000 deaths.
In France, tens of thousands of students in coronavirus cluster zones have been sent home from school, with a smaller number in Germany and Poland facing quarantines or days without class.
The Department for Education has launched a new helpline to answer questions about Covid-19 related to education.
Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:
– Phone: 0800 046 8687
– Email: DfE.email@example.com
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday)