Hitchin school responds to coronavirus fears, Italy trip and potential closure

Pupils and staff from The Priory School, Hitchin recently returned from a trip to Italy. Picture: Mi

Pupils and staff from The Priory School, Hitchin recently returned from a trip to Italy. Picture: Mia Beskeen - Credit: Archant

A school from Hitchin, which sent pupils on a school trip to Italy during the coronavirus crisis this month, has said it does not regret the decision to go in an exclusive interview with the Comet.

After pupils and staff from The Priory School went to Sorrento in southern Italy for four days on March 6, a school spokesperson answered questions on closing the school in response to coronavirus and their decision to go ahead with their Italy trip.

As confirmed cases of coronavirus shot up in Italy, and quarantine measures were imposed by the Prime Minister, all the students and staff who went to Sorrento were told to self–isolate for 14 days.

Q: How seriously are you considering closing the school?

A: It’s a very difficult situation for all involved and we completely share the concerns of parents and pupils during this worrying time. Along with all other schools in England, we are continuing to monitor the situation very closely and acting upon the latest guidance from the Department for Education and Public Health England in relation to school closures. Their advice at present is to keep the school open as there is currently minimal risk posed to the school community.

Q: What precautionary measures might schools take to avoid closing?

A: The health and safety of staff and the children at the school is paramount which is why we have carried out regular, thorough cleaning and hygiene and continue to follow Public Health England guidelines on handwashing, and continue to direct our parents to the national advice to try and help them navigate their way, as there is a lot of misinformation on social media.

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Q: What would you say to parents who are calling for school closures immediately, or who may have pulled their children from school already?

A: We must follow the national guidance in relation to school closures and would never keep a school open if there was thought to be any risk to our pupils and members of staff. As The Priory School remains open, the expectation is that parents send their children to school unless there is a need to make reasonable adjustments due to family circumstances. This would be judged on a case by case basis.

Q: In the event of closures, would pupils be working from home/online homework set etc?

A: All students at The Priory School will have access to online learning and will be set appropriate work. The school has been planning for the last couple of weeks on how best to support students if the school is closed. The expectation is that students will have at least four hours of work a day.

Q: Do you regret the decision to send pupils and staff to Italy?

A: No. The school followed all the advice from the DfE and Foreign office. Our students and staff returned home safely from their trip to Sorrento in Southern Italy as planned.

Q: What’s your response to those who have criticised your decision to send pupils to Italy?

A: The school made the decision based on the latest advice available from central Government, the Department of Education and Public Health England.

For live coronavirus updates, go to https://www.thecomet.net/news/coronavirus-hertfordshire-cambridgeshire-bedfordshire-news-1-6562798