School returns to home learning as Covid-19 cases rise
DOWNEND School had to suspend face-to-face lessons for pupils after more than 30 coronavirus cases were reported.
The move came against a background of rising Covid-19 cases in the area, as the more infectious Delta variant of the disease started to spread.
The secondary school moved back to remote learning during the week from June 14-19 for Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12, with all pupils except children of key workers asked to study online from home.
Year 11 GCSE and Year 13 A-level candidates had already finished work and assessments for the year, although transition sessions for Year 11s planning to return for sixth form in September also had to be suspended.
The school had planned to hold Year 10 pupils’ exams in school, until cases were reported which meant they also had to be run remotely.
More than 400 pupils in Years 8, 9, 10 and 12 were told to self-isolate, as close contacts of the people who had tested positive, as well as an unspecified number of staff.
A spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council said a total of 31 cases among children and staff, some confirmed following PCR tests and others suspected after lateral flow tests, had been reported as of June 14.
A Downend School spokesperson said the “difficult decision” to move to remote learning was “due to the number of staff having to isolate”, adding: “The safety of our students, staff and community is of paramount importance, and we will continue to monitor the situation carefully alongside our colleagues from Public Health.”
By Monday June 21 face-to-face learning had resumed, following a deep clean of the site.
The school reintroduced rules requiring all staff and students to wear face coverings in corridors and indoor communal areas, although not in class.
In a letter to parents the school said: “Switching to remote learning was the very last thing we wanted to do but the number of cases and speed of transmission meant that this was the best thing for the safety of our community.
“It has been good to hear that those staff and students who have been unwell with covid have, for the large part, only suffered fairly minor symptoms and are on the mend. We wish them a speedy and full return to health.”
The closure came as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the area rose sharply.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that, in the week to June 16, the total number of confirmed cases in South Gloucestershire was 232, up from 30 a fortnight previously.
Confirmed cases in Emersons Green were up from 2 to 23 over the week to June 16, while in Mangotsfield, confirmed cases rose from 2 to 10 over the same period.
In Pucklechurch & Westerleigh, cases rose from 5 to 13 in the week to June 16.
In Downend, numbers of confirmed cases rose from 4 in the week to June 9 to 28 a week later.
In the year to June 11, 144 deaths with Covid-19 had been registered among South Gloucestershire residents.