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Samuel Ward Academy's headteacher Andy Hunter describes coronavirus outbreak at school as 'most difficult' period of his career

Samuel Ward Academy’s headteacher has praised the speed at which the school has adapted since it was forced to close last week due to an outbreak among staff of Covid-19.

Andy Hunter has also described the period between Sunday, September 6, when it was first revealed that eight learning support assistants (LSAs) had returned positive test for the virus, and the following Wednesday as the ‘most difficult’ time of his career in education.

The Haverhill school fell under the national media spotlight after becoming the first in the country to close completely – as it did on Monday and Tuesday – due to a Covid-19 outbreak.

Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill
Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill

The school re-opened on a rota basis last Wednesday for some of its year groups, with the other year groups returning to the school on Tuesday.

With 24 teaching staff having to self-isolate for 14 days because they had either tested positive for the virus or been known to have been in close proximity to those infected, the school had to operate with a reduced teaching capacity.

The school also had about 130 students, from Years 7 and 10, self-isolating for the two weeks.

Andy Hunter, headteacher at Samuel Ward Academy
Andy Hunter, headteacher at Samuel Ward Academy

Next Monday the school will be fully open to each year group and Mr Hunter told the Echo: “It was a really difficult time because everything was new, from half-past ten on Sunday morning to Wednesday morning, when we reopened again for half the school.

“I don’t think I’ve done anything before in an educational environment that was so difficult.”

The school’s situation attracted the attention of not just local and regional, but also national media and Mr Hunter was interviewed on BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio Four and even by the Wall Street Journal.

He turned down invitations to appear on the BBC Two programme, Victoria Derbyshire and Lorraine, on ITV, as he needed to focus on getting the school running again.

He added: “What it showed was that the systems we had in place to understand the situation and to control it and to stop the spread and to get the school running again worked, so actually our plan was good and it has got us to a position where we will be ready to open again fully again next Monday.

“It’s taught us that you can’t rely on an interpretation of the Government guidelines for schools but we have to put in place measures that we believe will be as good as they can be.”

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