Covid-19’s spread in Herefordshire schools (and a new message to parents)

THE number of schools pupils in Herefordshire currently self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus, or coming into contact with a classmate who has, has been revealed.

Herefordshire’s acting director of public health says schools should stay open for the remainder of term despite more than 1,000 children being off, with the summer holidays due to start today (Friday) or early next week. 

Almost 2,000 pupils were off school on Wednesday (July 14), public health chief Dr Rebecca Howell-Jones said, but around 1,300 of these were for Covid-19 reasons.

Herefordshire Council said 20 maintained schools were affected by at least one confirmed positive Covid-19 case on Wednesday.

With 98 maintained schools in the county, it meant around 20 per cent of schools were affected by Covid-19 related absences.

The Government website said in 2018-19 there were 23,584 pupils on roll at the county’s schools, so assuming similar numbers this academic year, 5.5 per cent of students were self-isolating.

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John Kyrle High School in Ross-on-Wye shut its doors for the summer holidays on Wednesday, two days earlier than planned, with coronavirus cases spread across years eight, nine and 10.

Hundreds of pupils at the school were reported to be self-isolating after coming into contact with a confirmed case.

“The total number of current absences is in the region of 1800 students, but it is important to note that this figure does include some non Covid related reasons,” a spokesperson for the council said.

“Our estimate is around 1,300 isolating as potential Covid contacts but it is changing hourly. We have one school now closed as a result of staff and pupil contacts.

“We are extremely fortunate that all Herefordshire schools are able to offer remote online learning which enables pupils to maintain contact with teachers and their peers despite not being able to attend in person.”

Wigmore School in north Herefordshire said on Tuesday it was dealing with a coronavirus outbreak “on a different scale” to anything it had seen previously.

It said year 10 pupils had been testing positive for Covid-19, with a mobile testing unit being brought onto the school site to find out if any more students have the virus.

On Monday, headteacher Rob Patterson said eight year 10 students had tested positive, but then on Tuesday, he confirmed another “small number” of cases had been found. A case had also been found in year eight.

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Public health chief Rebecca Howell-Jones said: “As Herefordshire’s Acting Director of Public Health, I think schools should continue with their plans for the last few days of school and parents should continue to send in their children.

“However, please do not send your child if you are advised otherwise by the school or NHS Test and Trace, or if your child is not feeling well.

“Schools have good systems in place for managing transmission risk in their settings.

“I would encourage families and secondary school age children to continue using lateral flow testing. Also, parents and guardians, please take up the offer of vaccination if you have not yet done so.”

St Paul’s Primary School in Hereford, Hereford Academy and St Mary’s RC High School in Lugwardine had also reported coronavirus cases over the last two weeks.

Herefordshire Council was not able to confirm exact numbers as schools are under no obligation to report how many pupils were self-isolating.

Hereford Times