Thousands of parents keep kids at home over coronavirus fears as schools are ordered to stay open


SCHOOLS have been told to stay open during the coronavirus outbreak – but attendance has plummeted as worried parents keep their kids at home.

Kids with a cough or fever will be isolated in a room at school and then sent home for a fortnight to try to halt the spread of the outbreak.

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Schools have been told to send home any child with a cough

But as Boris Johnson announced that most of Britain will be put in lockdown, schools will stay open.

Advice released by Public Health England (PHE) yesterday states: “PHE will rarely advise a school to close, but this 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.”

They also told teachers that any child with coronavirus symptoms should be self-isolated and then sent home.

But while ministers remain determined to keep schools open, many parents are taking matters into their own hands and keeping their kids at home.

Chris Dyson, headteacher of Parklands Primary School in Leeds, said attendance at his school had plummeted to 74 per cent yesterday morning.

Dan Morrow, the chief executive of the Woodland Academy Trust in Kent, said attendance was down “between 55 per cent and 80 per cent across the trust’s schools”.

Meanwhile, parents on Twitter said they would be keeping their kids at home – sending the hashtag Covid19walkout trending on the social media site.

Giving a press conference in Westminster last night, the PM said: “We think it’s better we can keep schools open for all sorts of reasons but we will keep this under review.”

Meanwhile, nearly 100 univecrsities have shut down face to face teaching and are moving their courses online amid the growing crisis.

Among them was Newcastle University, which said it would send students home until September and carry out teaching online instead.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson last night held crunch talks with teachers unions to discuss the coronavirus response.

In a joint statement after their talks with Mr Williamson, union bosses said they urged him to cancel school inspections amid the crisis.

ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton and NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman said: “The most immediately pressing challenge is the difficulty in keeping schools open with growing numbers of staff having to self-isolate.

“It is likely that a number of schools will have to close because there are too few staff available to teach, support and supervise children.”

They voiced fears over what will happen to kids with special educational needs and those who rely on free school meals if their schools have to shut.

They added: ““There is also the crucial question of SATs, GCSE and A-level exams which are scheduled in May and June.

“We must move quickly to provide clarity and address the obvious anxiety for pupils, families and staff about what may or may not happen, and what contingencies are in place to deal with the inevitable disruption.”