Pupils sent home after more than 30 go down with Covid
DOWNEND School had to suspend face-to-face lessons for pupils after more than 30 coronavirus cases were reported.
The move came against a background of rising Covid-19 cases in the area, as the more infectious delta variant of the disease started to spread.
The secondary school moved back to remote learning during the week from June 14-19 for Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12, with all pupils except children of key workers asked to work from home using work set online.
Year 11 GCSE and Year 13 A-level candidates had already finished work and assessments for the year, although transition sessions for Year 11s planning to return for sixth form in September also had to be suspended.
The school had planned to hold Year 10 pupils' exams in school, until cases were reported which meant they also had to be run remotely.
More than 400 pupils were told to isolate, as close contacts of the people who had tested positive.
A spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council said a total of 31 cases, some confirmed following PCR tests and others suspected after lateral flow tests, had been reported as of June 14, involving children and staff.
After making the decision, a Downend School spokesperson said: "Over the last few days, we have experienced a number of cases of Covid-19 within the Downend School community.
"This has meant that we have advised some students in Years 8, 9, 10 and 12 to self-isolate.
"We also have a number of staff who are confirmed cases and other staff self-isolating as contacts.
"We are working closely with the South Gloucestershire and South West Public Health teams, and are taking a number of temporary measures to contain transmission and prevent further spread of the virus.
"Due to the number of staff having to isolate, we have taken the difficult decision to move some year groups to remote learning for the remainder of the week.
"The safety of our students, staff and community is of paramount importance, and we will continue to monitor the situation carefully alongside our colleagues from Public Health."
By Sunday June 20 the school was able to announce that face-to-face learning would resume, following a deep clean of the site.
It reintroduced rules requiring that all staff and students wear face coverings in corridors and indoor communal areas, although masks were not required in class.
In a letter to parents, the school said: "Switching to remote learning was the very last thing we wanted to do but the number of cases and speed of transmission meant that this was the best thing for the safety of our community.
"It has been good to hear that those staff and students who have been unwell with Covid have, for the large part, only suffered fairly minor symptoms and are on the mend. We wish them a speedy and full return to health."
The closure came as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the area rose sharply in the space of a week.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that, in the week to June 15, the total number of confirmed cases in South Gloucestershire was 217, more than double the 107 recorded over the previous week.
In Downend, numbers of confirmed cases rose from 4 in the week to June 8 to 27 a week later.
In Mangotsfield, confirmed cases rose from 2 to 10 over the same period and in the ONS areas covering Staple Hill, numbers rose from 9 to 14.
Confirmed cases in Emersons Green were up from 2 to 17 over the week to June 15, but in Frenchay and Great Stoke they were down, from 23 to 13.
In the year to June 4, 144 deaths with Covid-19 had been registered among South Gloucestershire residents.