A school is asking parents to help clean the toilets and plans to make its own hand sanitiser in a bid to avoid a Coronavirus outbreak.
Framwellgate School Durham headteacher Andy Byers sent a letter to parents yesterday outlining the steps the secondary school is taking to prepare for any outbreak, which also include setting up a £30,000 contingency fund.
Byers states the school has purchased four wall mounted hand sanitisers despite a “global shortage”, and has also “purchased the ingredients to make our own sanitiser” should it run out.
This shows the lengths schools are going to in order to ensure continuity of education
Public Health England has warned against homemade sanitisers, saying these won’t protect people from the virus.
Speaking to HuffPost, Dr Nick Phin, deputy director at the National Infection Service, urged the public to stick to washing hands with soap and water.
In light of PHE’s guidance, Byers explained the school had purchased ingredients with 99 per cent alcohol – which guidance said would help fight the spread of Coronavirus.
Byers said the sanitiser ‘ingredients’ came in powder form and only required the adding of water.
But he explained until the school ran out of supplies it would “not being doing anything at all” and “would make a decision when the time comes” based on the latest guidance available.
“If we believe it is safe we will make it”, he said.
Reflecting on the outbreaks impact on schools the headteacher said it was “taking up a lot of time” and schools are left “reacting to a changing situation.
He added: “Schools will do their best but plans will have to change.”
Elsewhere the letter asks parents to volunteer for the “not glamorous . . . but essential” task of cleaning the toilets and keeping soap dispensers topped up.
A £30,000 contingency fund is being established from “emergency reserves” to pay for the additional cleaning and equipment needed to operate “if the school is closed for an extended period of time” and for support staff if teachers are off sick.
Byers also voiced concerns about how the virus and the panic surrounding it will impact “students suffering anxiety or other mental health conditions”.
He said pupils are “deeply concerned” and “coverage of the Coronavirus is exacerbating this anxiety”.
The letter also highlights “limited” advice has been given to schools about potential exam disruption, but said headteachers have been told to “do all they can to ensure exams run and schools aren’t closed”.
In an updated statement today, Ofqual advised pupils to “continue to prepare for exams as normal”.
They reiterated they are working with exam boards and the Department for Education to plan for a “range of scenarios. Our overriding priorities are fairness to students this summer and keeping disruption to a minimum.”
Matthew Clements-Wheeler, chair of the Institute of School Business Leadership, praised the proactive action of the school which shows the “lengths schools are going to in order to ensure continuity of education”.
He said: “What is important at this point is to stress that school leaders are faced with difficult decisions about how much time to devote to contingency planning vs business as usual whilst also managing the fears and concerns of their school communities.”
However the chair did call for “clarity from the DfE” about how it will protect schools from disruption and provide “additional funding for cleaning, supply staff cover and any national revision initiatives would help with this planning”.
Under new contingency plans being drawn up in Whitehall the government could close schools and order others to take extra pupils from elsewhere.
Boris Johnson has said that schools should not close “in principle”, and Public Health England has said they should remain open unless told otherwise.
But a joint action plan issued by the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments earlier this week stated that school closures could be considered as a way of slowing the spread of the disease.