Coronavirus: School closures 'may be necessary' over staff shortages, says PHE

Public Health England has updated its guidance for schools, warning it “may be necessary” to close schools if staff isolation due to coronavirus causes “operational issues”.

Until this morning, the organisation’s official advice stated that there was “no need” to close schools or send learners or staff home, even if they had a suspected case.

However, the body has now updated its guidance, simplifying its advice to schools, and stating that although it will “rarely advise a school to close” if symptoms are identified, closure “may be necessary if there are so many staff being isolated that the school has operational issues”.

“Your local authority will support you to make this assessment. PHE will work with the headteacher, principal or management team, and the local authority public health team, to advise on the management of children, pupils, students or staff.”

The guidance also states that, “in most cases, closure of the educational setting will not be needed”.

This will be a “local decision based on various factors such as establishment size and risk of further spread”.

Elsewhere, the guidance reiterates how schools must respond to pupils and staff showing symptoms of the disease, sending them home and isolating them until they are able to leave if necessary.

It comes as pressure is mounting on the government to close England’s schools en-masse, following the decision to do so in multiple other European countries, including the Republic of Ireland.

Headteachers’ groups are due to hold crunch talks with the Department for Education today.