SOME schools in Solihull are reporting ‘half of pupils are away’ from classes, despite them being open as normal for now.
Some pupils in the borough are staying at home to prevent coronavirus spreading, as the government holds out against closing schools, despite other countries shutting them down.
Schools’ activities are also being restricted and monitored throughout the borough, including for staffing levels.
It comes as the government yesterday stepped up the fight against coronavirus by calling on people to stay at home and avoid all non-essential contact.
Many parents of schoolchildren are now voting with their feet, with UK scientists yesterday estimating between 35,000 and 50,000 underlying UK coronavirus cases with exponential daily rises expected.
One school, the Triple Crown Centre, which teaches secondary pupils outside mainstream education, said after registration this morning (March 17), around half its pupils were away.
However, a spokeswoman for Shirley Heath Primary School said ‘no more than the typical number of pupils were away.’
Other primary schools in Solihull had seen a drop in registrations this week, though by how much many were reluctant to tell us.
Heads have stated they will be working to keep children mixing to a minimum. Bishop Wilson C of E Primary posted:”From today (March 17), all school trips are cancelled (refunds will be made in due time as necessary) and any in-school events where parents would be invited will also be cancelled – this includes the Mothers’ Day Assembly.
“Daily class routines will remain largely the same but we will no longer be having whole school or key stage assemblies in order to minimise larger groups of children mixing unnecessarily.
“One challenge we may face is keeping safe staffing levels should many staff have to self- isolate. We will review this if necessary and act accordingly.
“Finally, we all need to adapt and change in the unprecedented circumstances new we now find ourselves living in. We need to follow the advice and keep one another safe.
“If we pray, then let’s pray for wisdom for our leaders and protection for our families and friends and all our school community.”
Teaching unions have called for Britain to join the rest of Europe in closing schools to prevent coronavirus spreading in them.
The National Education Union wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to say: “We do not have the medical expertise to know what the transmissibility is between children and staff in close quarters in classrooms – but your scientists will have made assumptions about that, together with some view of the certainty of those figures.
“It is very important that we understand what the increased rate of infection is for staff and parents if school remain open, including obviously for those with underlying health conditions themselves, or for those they care for.”
A statement from teaching union NASUWT said: “In this increasingly difficult situation, the lack of specific information for schools understandably has created a rising sense of panic.
“Schools are struggling with ever diminishing staffing levels and are being driven to make arrangements for changes to staff working conditions which have the potential to compromise the health and safety of staff and pupils. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.
“The UK Government, working with governments and administrations across the UK, must now make a definitive decision about the steps being taken to protect the school workforce and the closure of schools.”