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Headteacher of Haverhill school said it has been a "hugely challenging" time after a rash of Covid-19 cases forced it to close

After what has been a turbulent week in which it has had to close due an outbreak among staff of Covid-19, Samuel Ward Academy’s head teacher has said ‘plenty of lessons will be learned’.

The Haverhill school was forced to close completely on Monday and Tuesday after eight learning support assistants tested positive for Covid-19, a situation that placed it under the spotlight of the national media.

The school has now reopened for some year groups.

The recently opened block at Samuel Ward Academy. Submitted picture
The recently opened block at Samuel Ward Academy. Submitted picture

Reflecting on what has happened, the school’s headteacher, Andy Hunter, said: “I truly appreciate the anxiety among staff, students and families that the events of the last few days has caused.

“We had high hopes for the return to school and I know I speak for the entire staff when I say we are extremely disappointed to find ourselves in the position we are in now.

“Our school is safe and we will learn even more lessons from the events of the last few days.

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

“It has been a hugely challenging but I would like to thank the many kind messages I have received from parents who know we are living through unprecedented times.

“I would also like to thank all those agencies who have worked so closely with us and supported us.”

Tim Coulson, chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership, of which Samuel Ward is a part, said: “I would like to commend the quick action of Andy Hunter and his team, working closely with Public Health England, Suffolk County Council and the Department for Education, for quickly isolating this outbreak and preparing a plan for the coming days and weeks.

Dr Tim Coulson
Dr Tim Coulson

“While the focus has been on Samuel Ward Academy, the rest of our schools within the Haverhill area have reported a positive start to the new year and we are delighted to welcome our pupils back to the classroom.”

The eight staff who tested positive for Covid-19 and their households are now self-isolating for 14 days, as are 16 further staff who were in contact with them.

Three classes in Year 7 and two groups in Year 10 (around 130 students) are self-isolating.

All families whose children need to self-isolate have now been contacted separately by the school.

Due to the significant number of staff self-isolating, the school is operating a rota system among year groups for the rest of this week and next week, so fewer students will be in school.

Home learning will be provided and the school will open fully on Monday, September 21.

There has been extensive cleaning across the whole site and any room in which someone is known to have tested positive in has been treated with anti-viral ‘fogging’.

The school was closed for two days as a precautionary measure and to allow staff time to trace and isolate all the contacts.

Because of the outbreak, Mr Hunter said the school would be increasing its systems of control.

This will include new guidance for staff on increased social distancing, including amongst other things a blanket ban on making anyone else a drink or sharing food or snacks.

All staff meetings, including full staff meetings and department meetings, will be held virtually. All assemblies will be held virtually.

Samuel Ward is also asking that from now until half-term at the end of October, all staff and students wear face coverings in public places.

That means corridors, stairwells, toilets and washrooms, changing rooms and canteen queues.

Masks will not be worn in lessons unless an individual has a specific and compelling medical reason to wear one.