Headteachers say Covid cases are rising and admit they 'could be next' to close after Admiral Lord Nelson School in Portsmouth shut amid spiralling cases

HEADTEACHERS have said Covid cases are rising and admitted they ‘could be next’ to shut following a dramatic announcement to close by a city school.

By Steve Deeks
Friday, 22nd October 2021, 4:28 pm

Admiral Lord Nelson School’s decision to close its doors on Thursday for the final two days before half-term offered a stark reminder of the situation across the area.

The Copnor school took the decision after 17 education and teaching staff were absent largely due to Covid-19 and having to self-isolate.

And with 161 students isolating due to testing positive for Covid-19, the school felt there was no choice but to shut its doors.

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Now other schools have revealed they are dealing with mounting cases – whilst conceding they could be next to close.

Julie Summerfield, headteacher of Horndean Technology College, said they were just ‘having to learn to live with it’ after having positive cases.

She said: ‘We are trying to cope the best we can. This time last year we lost the heads of maths and science. It is so unpredictable. We just try and respond to situations when they happen.

Horndean Technology College headteacher Julie Summerfield Picture by: Malcolm Wells

‘Cases normally rise after a holiday when students have been mixing so we will have to see what happens after the half-term break.

‘I empathise with the head (of Admiral Lord Nelson) as they felt they had no choice (to shut). But it could be us after half-term. We take it as it comes and try and do the best for the community.

‘It’s a challenge and a balancing act. But I feel positive we are in the process of returning to normal.’

The school will offer those aged 12-15 the vaccine in November. The government’s announcement to offer those in the same age bracket a jab at a testing centre was also welcomed by Ms Summerfield. ‘It’s positive as it offers another avenue to get vaccinated,’ she said, before adding it was up to the parents to decide.

Simon Graham, headteacher of St Edmund’s Catholic School, said the school had higher case numbers when the testing system was first introduced but said Covid numbers were now ‘stable’.

The school’s average attendance of 93/94 per cent was lower than Mr Graham ‘would have wanted’ – with the usual average being 95 per cent.

‘We’ve had a low number of students and staff isolating but we have seen a small rise,’ the headteacher said. ‘In the last week we’ve had 20 students and two members of staff (who have had to isolate).’

‘But it is a relatively small number out of 1,900 students and 130 staff. There is no doubt there has been an increase though.’

The school, like many others, started off insisting on masks before relaxing that to being optional as matters became more stable and testing came in to play.

The vaccination programme at the school also started on Friday. Mr Graham said children aged 12-15 having a jabs via testing centres was an ‘individual choice’ and not a matter for the school to comment on.

‘Making sure the children are as safe as possible is our priority,’ he said.

Lucinda Webb, director of communications of Portsmouth High School, said the Covid cases had been ‘manageable’ with the girls staying at home for learning when necessary.

She added: ‘We’ve had first jabs across the school with there’s a good take-up from girls.’

National daily coronavirus infections have soared past 52,000 for the first time since January.

The estimated take-up for 12-15 vaccinations is 21.1 per cent in Portsmouth and 18.5 per cent in Hampshire, as of October 16.

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