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Aylesford School, in Teapot Lane, resumes remote learning until school holidays amid 'pingdemic'

All pupils at a secondary school will be working from home for the last few days before the summer holidays after a growing number of Covid-19 cases.

If the Aylesford School had remained open, only about a quarter of pupils would have come in, with the rest required to self-isolate.

Aylesford School in Teapot Lane. Picture: Google Street View
Aylesford School in Teapot Lane. Picture: Google Street View

The establishment, in Teapot Lane, has also seen an "unprecedented number" of staff being told to isolate by the Test and Trace app and suspected cases in staff, head teacher Tanya Kelvie said.

She added this had been compounded by staff looking after young children who had been asked to isolate from nursery and school.

In an email to parents yesterday afternoon, before the decision to go remote once more, Miss Kelvie said: "This weekend I have continued to be notified of a large and growing number of suspected/confirmed Covid-19 cases in students and their families.

"It is now highly likely these will continue to cause disruption into next week across all year groups.

"I am also aware that many of you are concerned that isolation will impact on planned family holidays and events.

Head teacher at Aylesford School, Tanya Kelvie
Head teacher at Aylesford School, Tanya Kelvie

"We all share this concern. As always in these difficult times we respect the choices you make as parents, especially in this last week of term.

"The school will not take further action for absence relating to absence in this last week."

Today, pupils worked from home and a decision was made that this would continue for another two days, until the school breaks up on Wednesday.

In a statement this afternoon, Miss Kelvie said: “Unfortunately, we have had a number of pupils test positive for Covid-19 in recent days across various year groups.

"Having worked out who the close contacts of those pupils are, we calculated that only about a quarter of our pupils would have been able to come into school this week as the remainder would be required to self-isolate at home.

“I understand that some pupils will be disappointed they weren’t able to see their friends in person on the last few days of term, however, the safety of the whole school community must come first."

"After consulting the Department for Education, Public Health England and Kent County Council I have taken the decision that all pupils will learn remotely for the final three days of the school year.

“I understand that some pupils will be disappointed they weren’t able to see their friends in person on the last few days of term, however, the safety of the whole school community must come first."

Miss Kelvie told Kent Online: "This is the last thing we wanted to, it is the last week of term, we wanted to see our students.

"We are all very frustrated.

"This is not a decision taken lightly, it really has been done for the best interest and health and safety of the pupils."

Do you think the school should have resumed remote learning? Take part in our poll.

Asked for her thoughts on the Test and Trace system, which currently requires people to self-isolate for 10 days, including if you have been told to by the NHS app, the head teacher said: "I think it's clear the situation with the variants isn't going to go away and we do have to find a better way of dealing with it."

Alan Brookes, executive head teacher of Fulston Manor Academy Trust in Sittingbourne, and chairman of the Kent Association of Head Teachers, said he supported Aylesford School's decision, adding: "You can't effectively provide education when you have got three-quarters of pupils missing."

Education is one of the many aspects of life being disrupted by requirements to self-isolate, as Covid-19 cases rise. It comes after Covid restrictions were eased last month, and the remainder scrapped today, although mask wearing and social distancing is still being practised in health settings.

There are approximately 50,000 new Covid cases being reported every day and the so-called 'pingdemic' saw 1.8 million Brits told to stay at home last week by Test and Trace.

Alan Brookes, chairman of the Kent Association of Head Teachers, says he supports Aylesford School's decision
Alan Brookes, chairman of the Kent Association of Head Teachers, says he supports Aylesford School's decision

The Times revealed that Marks and Spencer could be forced to reduce its opening hours due to massive disruption to food supplies caused by high numbers of staff self-isolating.

Other supermarkets could also suffer empty shelves, due to industry-wide problems, the report warned, while some ports have up to 10% of staff unable to work, leading to distribution issues.

Mr Brookes said that before today, schools ran their own in-house test and trace systems but are now reliant on the NHS, and pointed out that from August 16, anyone under the age of 18 will not have to self-isolate if a close contact tests positive.

He said test and trace had been "disruptive" on schools but "quite effective" in limiting the spread of the disease. He predicted the rising cases, without test and trace school systems and self-isolation periods, could cause further problems in September.

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.

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