Oh joy, swine flu plus Ofsted

26th June 2009 at 01:00
Head is delighted that outbreak didn't keep inspectors away

Gwendy Morrison, head of St Mary's CofE Primary School in Slough, is upbeat - despite having an Ofsted inspection in the middle of a swine flu outbreak.

While many heads would consider this a nightmare combination, Mrs Morrison was delighted the authorities did not force her to shut the school.

"We would have been really sorry to have had to close and miss the inspection. We want to show what our children have achieved," she said.

The school is one of five in the town to be affected by swine flu.

But while there have been confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus at St Mary's, Langley Grammar, Wexham Court, Langley Manor and Wexham Secondary, only Wexham Secondary has been advised to close.

At St Mary's, which was rated good with outstanding features in 2006, one girl who felt unwell was away from school last week. She was tested for swine flu because her sister is a pupil at Wexham Secondary. The test was positive, but by then she had recovered, so the authorities did not recommend that the school closed.

Mrs Morrison played down the impact of the outbreak. "It sounds more dramatic than it actually was," she said. "A girl had some snuffles for a couple of days and that was it. It seems to be quite mild. We have three children with immune deficiencies; their parents are keeping them off school, which is understandable.

"We have done the usual thing - cleaning like mad and emptying bins more often. Everyone has tissues on their tables and we've reminded the children to wash their hands.

"One of the inspectors didn't turn up, but the company managed to find a back-up."

The Health Protection Agency said it was no longer automatically recommending schools with cases of swine flu to close unless there were special circumstances.

An HPA spokesman said that in London and the West Midlands the disease was now so widespread that there was little benefit.

He said: "From now on (in these areas), we will not normally recommend that schools close, even where there are confirmed cases. This is because, now that the virus is circulating in the community, closing schools will not help to slow the spread of the virus as people could still be exposed to it outside the school.

"We have always said that this virus would spread but that we would monitor this situation closely and adjust our approach as necessary. The approach we have taken up to now has been vital in slowing the spread of swine flu, which has not only limited the impact of the disease, but has also given us time to learn more about the virus."

In other areas, the decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis, he said. If there was no evidence of significant transmission in the community, then it may still be helpful for a school to close. l On Tuesday, the total number of confirmed cases in the UK since April was 2,905.

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