Black Country schools partially close ahead of full shutdown on Friday

Schools across the region have been forced to partially close ahead of a planned shutdown from Friday.

Schools have been left short-staffed due to the coronavirus pandemic
Schools have been left short-staffed due to the coronavirus pandemic

Schools in England will close until further notice from Friday, except for children of key workers and the most vulnerable, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced today.

It came after many schools had already announced partial closures, saying they could no longer safely supervise all children due to unprecedented amounts of staff shortages.

Most partial closures were affecting years 8 and 9 due to priority being given to year groups with imminent examinations, however the Prime Minister later announced that exams will not go ahead as planned in the summer.

Partial closures already in place

Moreton School in Wolverhampton is closing to years 8 and 9 due to "unprecedented levels of staff absence" but is staying open for years 7, 10, 11 and the sixth form.

Headteacher Nicola Bayliss said she hoped to reopen the school after the Easter break but that with staff self-isolating it was impossible to run the school safely for all year groups.

She said: "I understand that this partial closure will create additional childcare for families of those pupils who are being asked to remain at home, and I apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause but I hope you can appreciate the efforts we are taking to keep both staff and students safe at this difficult time."

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Aldersley High School in Wolverhampton is also closing for years 9 and 10, with executive headteacher Nicola Davis citing similar reasons. Teachers will set work for pupils using Microsoft teams.

Stourport High School confirmed the school will be partially closed from Wednesday until at least Friday March 27 due to a lack of staff.

Eight members of staff and 22 students from the school were self-isolating as of Wednesday.

The school will be closed to year 7 and 8 students for the next few weeks, but remains open to year nine to year 13 students.

Chris King, chief executive of the Severn Academies Educational Trust, said: “We are taking the latest advice regarding precautionary measures and staff and pupils displaying a cough or high temperatures are self-isolating. This of course now also includes those who don’t have any symptoms but whose family members do.

“None have been tested positive so far for the coronavirus but we are all duty-bound to minimise the risks of increasing the spread of this disease.

“We also have plans in place for both partial and full school closures should they become necessary and are keeping our school communities up to date with information.”

More coronavirus news:

Summerhill School in Kingswinford is closing to years 7, 8 and 9 from Thursday after attendance dropped to 75 per cent and 15 staff were reported absent.

A letter to parents said: "It has become impossible to run the school safely and effectively with the current staff numbers."

The school is attempting to provide a skeleton childcare service for the next two days for children whose parents work in the NHS or emergency services.

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Two schools in Smethwick, Holly Lodge High School and Shireland Collegiate Academy, have also closed to pupils in lower year groups.

The Welsh Government said all schools will close for an early Easter break by Friday at the latest, just minutes before First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced schools in Scotland will also close by the end of the week.

Chase Terrace Technology College in Burntwood announced Year 9 students will be told to stay at home from Thursday.

Pupils have been given homework to complete online and the school said it would do its best to support parents faced with "particular difficulties".

Baxter College in Kidderminster has reported there are eight staff self-isolating as a precaution and 28 per cent of students are absent, although no-one has tested positive.

A spokesman for the college said: “Years 7 and 8 have been reduced from six to four teaching groups in most subjects.

“Some adjustments have been made to groups across years 9 to 11, in a bid to keep the school open until such time as the government advises full closure.

“Sixth form lessons are unaffected.”

Universities

Universities are also taking extra precautions as the outbreak worsens.

Meanwhile all face-to-face lectures, seminars and assessments have been cancelled at Birmingham City University and the University of Wolverhampton.

Birmingham City University has also taken steps to replace its open day on Saturday with a ‘virtual open day’, giving prospective students the opportunity to hear from academics, explore facilities and learn more about courses without having to leave their homes.

Professor Philip Plowden, vice-chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “As the health and wellbeing of all in our university community is of the utmost importance to us, we have taken the decision to suspend all on-campus teaching.

“This is a challenging and fast-moving situation and we need to respond to the latest advice and guidance, which also means we are making arrangements for our staff to work flexibly or virtually where possible.

“The university remains open, as we need to continue to deliver our campus services and to support our students at this difficult time.”

Staffordshire University is preparing to transition to remote teaching and working from Monday.

Although some buildings on campus will be closed, accommodation and access to specialist equipment and facilities, including the library and sports centre, will remain in place for students who need to use them.

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