Published: 10:46, 16 September 2020
| Updated: 15:27, 16 September 2020
A school in Ashford is insisting that all of its secondary pupils wear face masks from today after a staff member tested positive for Covid-19.
Instead of closing The John Wallis Church of England Academy and sending its pupils home, principal Damian McBeath has consulted with Public Health England and taken an alternative measure.
In a letter sent to parents and carers yesterday, he explains that all staff and children in Year 7 and above must wear a face covering when they enter a building or change classrooms, during lunch queues, at socially-distanced assemblies and in the sixth form common room.
But they will be permitted to take them off during lessons and when outside.
The letter, seen by KentOnline , says: "I am writing to inform you that a member of staff has tested positive for Covid-19.
"The member of staff has not been in work since September 11, 2020 and has since been self-isolating.
"In line with government guidance, they will not be returning to work for the next 10 days and all areas in which they have taught have received an additional deep clean.
"The parents have once again responded very well..."
"We have informed Public Health England, who have reviewed the measures in place.
"They are satisfied that this is an isolated case and that the Academy had installed sufficient protective measures to prevent the spread further.
"No further action is required from PHE.
"However, we have decided to implement further measures to protect staff, pupils, students and their families from the potential spread of the virus."
The letter also contains advice to parents on what to do if their child experiences Covid-19 symptoms.
Speaking to KentOnline this morning, Mr McBeath confirmed that the measure is for the "foreseeable future" but will be reviewed regularly.
He said: "I have been in the corridors this morning and the vast majority of students are in and are happy. The parents have once again responded very well."
The school had prepared for such an eventuality with 10,000 face masks available for those who could not access one overnight.
He also spoke of a collaboration with Benenden School which is allowing the school to undertake rapid testing on staff, with results available within two and half hours.
This was the case, he explained, with the member of staff who tested positive, allowing the school to take swift and appropriate action on the same day as being informed.
Those who feel their child should be exempt from the new measure are told to send a letter from their GP to the pupil's head of year.
The letter continued: "We recognise that these measures have had to be brought in sooner than expected, however, we have always stated that keeping pupils, students, families and staff safe is our priority.
"We want everyone in our Academy community to be as protected as possible from illness and also from further possible school disruption.
"Please also ensure that you and your families are following the latest rules about no groups of more than six people meeting. This includes travelling to and from the Academy."
The John Wallis Church of England Academy is situated in Millbank Road and caters for pupils aged 0-19.