Coronavirus: Cumberland school defends action after teacher returns to work from Italy

The Cumberland School. Picture: Google

The Cumberland School. Picture: Google - Credit: Google Street View

A teacher’s return to work from a trip to Italy has heightened concerns about coronavirus at a school.

The senior member of staff at The Cumberland School in Oban Close, Plaistow, is reported to have spent a weekend in the country currently under lockdown because of the virus.

When she returned to work on Monday, March 9, colleagues found out, raising concerns with senior leaders, the Recorder understands.

The teacher was reportedly sent home by the school which it is said did not know about her trip beforehand.

A source, who asked not to be named, said: 'They've put everyone's health at risk. The school is hiding the facts. I can't believe the headteacher hasn't given anyone information.

'It's quite disgusting the way people are being treated. This lady could have the virus and we've not been told. Everybody needs to be made aware of it. It's a virus that can kill people.'

A spokesman for the school said: 'As is the case with schools and workplaces across the globe, it is highly likely that those who attend public spaces may have indirect contact or exposure to the coronavirus.'

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He added that after consulting Public Health England, the school took the decision to remain open 'at this stage' because the risk to staff and students is deemed to be extremely low.

A mixed academy and part of the Community Schools Trust, Cumberland has about 1,500 pupils and 200 staff.

A second source, who also asked not to be named, added that there had been no deep clean at the school which was 'extremely irresponsible' given current government advice.

But CEO of the Community Schools Trust Simon Elliott said: 'We are in the midst of a global crisis which has understandably left many in our community and beyond deeply unsettled.

'We understand parents are concerned but feel their frustration and anger is misdirected. Each decision we have taken, indeed all schools are taking, has been upon the advice of government and health officials.

'UK government policy is to keep schools open so that key workers in the NHS can remain on the frontline, safe in the knowledge their children will be cared for in a structured and supported environment.

'Teachers in schools across the country, some of whom would fall into high risk categories, are being asked to put their own health and well being at risk, and those of their families, so that the country can continue to function.

'Without this sacrifice, many in our community and beyond could not earn the money to feed their families, nurses and doctors could not tend to the sick; the economy, and indeed the entire country would grind to a halt.

'Like those in the NHS, our teachers are on the front line, putting the needs of the country and their community ahead of their own. I am proud to count myself among them.

'Following press reports, we would like to make the following clarifications.

'-The school did not give permission for a teacher to travel to Italy. When we discovered the trip had been taken, the teacher was sent home immediately.

'- A week after returning home the teacher has not displayed any symptoms of the coronavirus. The teacher will not return to school until the full 14 day quarantined period has elapsed. The teacher will be tested before returning to school.

'- The school is deep cleaned every night in line with government coronavirus prevention and control guidelines.

'- There has been no 'cover up' The school have followed government and health officials advice to the letter.

'- Four letters have been sent home to parents relating to the coronavirus, including specifically relating to the teacher taking a trip to Italy. This was sent home on Friday, two days before press reports were published.'

A parent - whose son came home with a fever on Monday, March 9, and asked not to be named - said: 'I'm shocked. They should have made people aware. I'm freaking out now. They should be telling people to be aware.'

The 43-year-old had told 111 her son only went between home and school when asked if he had been in contact with anyone displaying coronavirus symptoms.

'If they had told me [about the teacher] I would have told 111,' she said.

To date, the government has not ordered schools to close because of the coronavirus threat.