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'Business as usual as far as possible.' West Norfolk school leaders set out aim for new term amid Omicron spread



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Secondary school leaders in West Norfolk say they're determined to keep students in the classroom as much as possible, despite the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Pupils and staff have begun returning to lessons today after the Christmas break, though a staggered resumption means some year groups are not expected back until Friday.

While there has been growing concern in recent days about the impact of staff absences on the NHS, the soaring level of infections is also causing headaches for headteachers too.

Should secondary pupils be asked to wear masks in class? (54074672)
Should secondary pupils be asked to wear masks in class? (54074672)

But they say they are determined to maintain business as usual as far as possible.

John Hirst, head of the Smithdon High School in Hunstanton, said today: "We have contingency plans in place, but we will be trying to keep all students in school at all times.

"We will, however, make judgments as and when it is needed depending how the pandemic spreads."

Officials are determined to maintain business as usual as the new term begins at Hunstanton's Smithdon High School.
Officials are determined to maintain business as usual as the new term begins at Hunstanton's Smithdon High School.

Three members of Smithdon staff are currently off work with coronavirus, along with five others from its sister school, Springwood High in Lynn.

Officials from the West Norfolk Academies Trust, which sponsors both schools, have confirmed that testing of students has been taking place at Springwood today, with an unspecified number of positive results found.

Meanwhile, Smithdon pupils will be tested over the next couple of days as they start the new term after a training day today.

Elsewhere, officials at the trust's other secondary school, Marshland High in West Walton, have planned a staggered return to classes over three days, beginning tomorrow.

Craig Jansen, head of Marshland High School, said he is delighted with this year's GCSE results for his students. (48453233)
Craig Jansen, head of Marshland High School, said he is delighted with this year's GCSE results for his students. (48453233)

Headteacher Craig Jansen said parents had been "very understanding" of the need for a phased return, which will see pupils in Years 7 and 11 go back on Wednesday, with Years 8 and 10 following on Thursday, before Year 9 return on Friday.

He added: "With less than two per cent of our staff absent, we are not anticipating any staffing difficulties at this time.

"But given the transmissibility of the new ‘Omicron’ variant of Covid-19, we have a contingency plan in place that prioritises keeping students in school even under significant staffing difficulties.

Five staff are currently absent from Springwood High School for Covid reasons.
Five staff are currently absent from Springwood High School for Covid reasons.

"Our students have shown themselves to be incredibly adaptable and resilient during periods when increased protective measures are needed in school."

Another change to school life at the beginning of the new term is the reintroduction of facemasks for secondary pupils, a move supported by officials from the Inspiration Trust, which runs the King Edward VII Academy in Lynn.

A trust spokesman said: "There is no substitute for being in the classroom, and we will do everything we can to ensure pupils continue to have face to face learning.

King Edward VII Academy, King's Lynn.. (40415517)
King Edward VII Academy, King's Lynn.. (40415517)

"Introducing masks is a sensible measure as they make it more likely that pupils’ education will continue disruption-free.

"We are continuing to monitor and follow all guidance, including regular testing, to ensure that our students and staff remain safe and that our family of schools continue to operate as normal as possible."



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