Health bosses ‘slow’ to advise as 1,000 pupils told to stay at home

Carlton le Willows Academy

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image captionCarlton le Willows Academy said Public Health England has not given them “clear guidance”

Health bosses have been criticised by a head teacher over “slow” advice after 1,000 students from a school in Nottinghamshire were kept at home.

A teacher at Carlton le Willows Academy tested positive for Covid-19 and the school said it informed Public Health England (PHE) “immediately” on Tuesday.

Head teacher Craig Weaver said initial uncertainty about the interpretation of “close contact” had forced him to send teachers home, causing staffing issues.

PHE said it was assisting the school.

Updated PHE advice means most staff and pupils would be able to return on Thursday, the school has confirmed.

PHE said it was “working to assist” the school.

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Pupils in years 8, 9, 10 and 12 were kept at home on Wednesday.

‘Slow in responding’

The school, in Gedling, said the problem centred on a staff football match and what constituted “close contact” when one tested positive for the virus.

This – along with unrelated self isolation cases – resulted in 19 teachers being instructed to self-isolate.

Mr Weaver said the school had “no option” but to keep the pupils off school to ensure everybody’s safety and to give the school time to seek further clarification.

“Unfortunately, they were slow in responding and failed to give the clear and specific guidance on interpreting close contact given the specific school context, which was work related, but also complicated by a staff social event – a football match,” he said.

“I accept this may seem a very cautious approach but feel it was prudent given that we were left having to make a public health call late in the day using inflexible government guidance.”

PHE said “a small number of schools have encountered delays in receiving guidance” and it was working with the Department for Education to find “a solution to this problem which will enable schools to access the advice that they need in the most immediate way possible”.

The government said testing capacity was the highest it had ever been but it was seeing a “significant demand” so it was “vital” children and staff only applied for testing if they developed coronavirus symptoms.

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