Following the news we shared with you yesterday regarding a positive test for Covid-19 being returned at Appleton Academy, we can now provide some further detail and clarify return dates for those pupils affected. We are able to provide more information as we have now spoken to Public Health England (PHE). Unfortunately, although we may become aware of a positive Covid test and take immediate action such as closing a class or a bubble, it will not always be possible to instantly provide all of the information to parents and pupils that we would like to. This is because we first need to liaise with PHE to ensure the test result is reported and that any measures they wish us to put in place are addressed.
The positive Covid test was returned by a member of staff. The member of staff has not been in school while presenting with symptoms but they did contact us to advise they had been suffering overnight with the onset of symptoms at the end of last week. The member of staff was able to arrange a test and then had to wait for the results, which arrived yesterday and were shared with us – the member of staff was not in school while waiting for their test result. We then conducted an internal review to look at what contact the member of staff had with others in school and how the member of staff had managed their personal responsibilities around the use of PPE and social distancing measures etc. This initial information was shared with PHE who agreed that, although Year 5 are a bubble in and of themselves, the only class of pupils who were direct contacts of this member of staff were those in 5JC and, therefore, it was only necessary to close this class and ask those pupils to self-isolate.
Having had this initial conversation with PHE and taken the action we had; schools are then required to wait for a further call back from PHE to discuss any other implications and share the finer details about the person who has tested positive for the virus. Having had this further conversation with PHE, they have agreed that pupils in 5JC can return to school on WEDNESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 2020. PHE consider a period of 48 hours before the onset of symptoms in the person with Covid and then a period of self-isolation for those who have been in direct contact, which is how this date for pupils to return has been arrived at. It is also why this date differs from those we have previously shared with you. We apologise for any confusion caused by a number of dates being shared with you, which is because we had initially been asked to provide dates to you based on different information to that which has now been confirmed by PHE. PHE have now clarified that pupils can return on WEDNESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 2020. The member of staff affected will return a day earlier than this, as agreed with PHE but this will strictly be subject to them no longer having symptoms and a thorough ‘return to work’ review being completed first.
We would like to reassure you that the member of staff affected has strictly adhered to the protocols in school around PPE, social distancing and hand-sanitising protocols. We have thoroughly reviewed the actions of the member of staff and our own risk assessment and procedures and we are absolutely certain that the member of staff has socially distanced in the classroom and around school. We are also aware that the member of staff has followed our procedures for wearing face coverings in school and that a visor was also used, in addition to a mask, during interactions with pupils.
For the avoidance of doubt and addressing something that parents have raised; although the class affected by our decision to close part of a year group was 5JC, the member of staff who has tested positive is not Mrs Cross. Mrs Cross is well and remains in school. The 5JC classroom has now been closed for a period of quarantining (as is required) and will then receive a thorough deep clean before it is re-opened to staff and pupils.
In respect of testing other members of staff or pupils in response to this positive result; as you will be aware, there is currently a shortage of tests nationally. It is also the case that the Academy cannot simply arrange to have staff or pupils tested on a regular basis ‘just in case’ and where there are no symptoms or even whenever a case of Covid comes up. We also do not have any priority access to testing. PHE have asked us to remind everyone that both the Academy and our parents, pupils and staff should only seek a test when a person has symptoms and believes they have coronavirus. If you or your child do develop symptoms, you should contact 111 or 119 for further advice.
In terms of communication with parents and the wider school community. There is a letter in the Covid-19 section of the website which all parents and pupils can refer to in the event of a positive Covid test in school: https://appletonacademy.co.uk/coronavirus-useful-information/ and titled’Letter to All Parents Regarding Positive Covid Test in School‘. Those who are directly affected will be contacted separately and also receive a different letter outlining the measures they need to take. We appreciate there will be a desire for all of the information we can share and that people want this immediately. However, there are steps we have to take in conjunction with outside agencies, such as PHE and we will release information as soon as we are able to.
The decisions we have taken in this case follow the guidance that all schools receive from agencies such as PHE and the DfE. The reason we have been able to limit the impact of the positive test is because we have been able to thoroughly review the actions of the member of staff while they have been in school and before they became aware that they had Covid-19. The member of staff has also adhered to the measures we have put in place in school to ensure we are ‘Covid Safe’ as much as it is possible for us to be so. Staff and pupils have been excellent at following these rules and instructions on site since our re-opening. We would ask that parents and visitors also continue to ensure that they adhere to social distancing rules if and when queuing to enter site at collection/drop off times and that you wear a face covering and follow staff instructions. Please also ensure that you reiterate the importance of this with your children and that you ask them to adhere to these rules when they are waiting to enter site.
There has been a large amount of discussion on social media about the test result and the Academy’s decision making and much of it has been inaccurate. Some have also shared opinions on what schools, parents and pupils should/are required to do in the event of a positive Covid test that are completely incorrect. We would respectfully ask that, if you are not sure about the current advice and guidelines, you refrain from offering advice to others and instead refer to the information that is available via agencies such as the DfE, PHE and Local Authority. You can also contact the Academy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a specific concern about your child, it is also much easier to discuss this with us than on social media, as we are able to respond much more specifically when we have all of the information directly from you.
We would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding following this positive test result. The procedures we have in school have worked and continue to work, which is why we remain open and safe to attend for all other students.