COVID-19 Update, 10 March

by | Mar 10, 2020 | Ackworth School, COVID-19

10th March 2010


To all members of the Ackworth School community,

This letter and summary of our Business Continuity Plan reflects the situation on the 10th March 2020 and is subject to change as directed by the UK Government.

I would like to share a summary of our Business Continuity Plan with you which includes information about how we are working to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all members of our community during the on-going international situation. Whilst we are trying to make sure that we minimise the risk we are also aware of the potential for anxiety and distress caused by the uncertainty or separation for families.

Unfortunately, rumours, misinformation and uncertainty abound. Information has been both confusing and contradictory, however there are well documented preventative measures that we can all take in order to limit the impact of this virus. What will also help us is critical and timeous information from parents and guardians about travel, illness or concerns.

What we are now aware of is that the risk to children appears to be very low. The vast majority of confirmed cases have occurred in adults and, globally, there have only been nine cases reported in children under the age of ten; 98% of reported cases are in those over the age of nineteen. All available evidence suggests that the risk of very serious complications occurring in children under the age of 19 is less than 1 in 500. Symptoms in younger people are typically very mild and are most unlikely to progress to a pneumonic phase.

Easter Holidays

The School will remain open for boarders during the Easter Holidays and a holiday programme will be followed which will include study time for pupils facing external examinations. We strongly advise against travel to any part of the world where there is a risk of infection – not least because pupils would be required to self-isolate upon their return. This would present particular problems for our pupils who are due to sit external examinations.

This position could alter rapidly if the situation escalates. If travel restrictions are imposed by the UK Government, all boarders would have to remain at school. Provision has been made for them.

UK Government Advice

The UK Chief Medical Officer continues to categorise the level of risk as ‘moderate’. Daily updates on the situation in the UK can be seen on the UK Government website. The UK Government has produced an Action Plan. We advise that you all take the time to read it to gain a greater understanding of how the UK is currently managing the situation.

Currently, there are no plans for schools to shut and the clear advice from the government is that Schools should remain open. However, it is possible that a school could be required to operate remotely were there to be an outbreak of Covid-19.

The current strategy of the UK Government is:

  • Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible
  • Delay: slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season
  • Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care
  • Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.

The UK Government also advises that everyone can support the UK’s response by:

  • Following public health authorities’ advice, for example on hand washing
  • Reducing the impact and spread of misinformation by relying on information from trusted sources, such as
  • Checking and following the latest Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice when travelling and planning to travel
  • Ensuring you and your family’s vaccinations are up to date as this will help reduce the pressure on the NHS through reducing vaccine-preventable diseases
  • Checking on elderly or vulnerable family, friends and neighbours
  • Using NHS 111 (including online, where possible), pharmacies and GPs responsibly, and go to the hospital only when you really need to. This is further explained on the NHS website.
  • Being understanding of the pressures the health and social care systems may be under, and receptive to changes that may be needed to the provision of care to you and your family.
  • Accepting that the advice for managing COVID-19 for most people will be self-isolation at home and simple over-the-counter medicines


Ackworth School strategy

In terms of the potential impact upon external examinations, we are provided with regular updates from JCQ and OFQUAL. No advice about external examinations has been received as yet except to carry on as normal. Once we have information pupils and parents will be notified.

We consult with colleagues in other independent and maintained schools and receive daily bulletins from the Boarding School Association (BSA), the Independent Schools Council (ISC) and the Independent Schools Bursars Association (ISBA).

The Senior Management Team reviews the latest developments and makes any necessary amendments to our existing position and is dedicated to responding to this situation regularly to agree short and mid-term strategies as the situation changes. The School has a Business Continuity Plan in place, a summary of which is included in this document which takes account of an extensive, if not exhaustive, set of eventualities.

The Situation at Ackworth School

No pupils or staff have needed to be tested for COVID-19.

All pupils who have experienced flu-like symptoms have followed our policy of self-isolation followed by immediate medical advice. All have been given clearance to return once their symptoms (in all cases a common cold) have been identified.

Ackworth School’s Business Continuity Plan

In order to safeguard the entire community, our plan is as follows:

(a) Travel

Pupils and staff must not travel to the regions identified by the UK Government as being most ‘at risk’. Ackworth School reserves the right to interpret a region of a country to apply to the entire country.

All travel plans, including those already approved, must be discussed with a house parent if they are boarders or with their tutor if they are day pupils, prior to any travel.

A pupil or staff member who visits one of these regions or any region which is subsequently added to the list, is expected to self-isolate, away from Ackworth School, for 14 days and seek medical clearance to return to Ackworth School.

Ackworth School advises against all non-urgent foreign travel.

(b) Contact

Pupils and staff must attempt to avoid all contact with any individuals who have recently visited a region identified by the UK Government as being most ‘at risk’. It would be wise to check before meeting to make sure that risk is minimised.

All plans to see friends and relatives who have travelled from a region identified as being most ‘at risk’ must be discussed with your house parent or tutor. Friends and relatives who have travelled from a region identified as being most ‘at risk’ must isolate for 14 days before seeing pupils.

A pupil or staff member who has contact with an individual who has recently visited an affected area is expected to self-isolate, away from Ackworth School, for 14 days and seek medical clearance to return to Ackworth School.

Ackworth School advises that all boarders remain at the School during the Easter holiday.

(c) Prevention of Infection

All pupils and Staff are reminded that they must:

  • Wash their hands regularly, with soap and water
  • Use of an alcohol-based hand sanitiser (at least 60% alcohol) is also recommended
  • Hands should always be washed before leaving home or the boarding accommodation
  • on arrival at school
  • after using the toilet
  • after breaks and activities
  • before eating or preparing food
  • before leaving school
  • cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue and then dispose of the tissue in a bin
  • report to the School Nurse, if they feel unwell, for further advice. Local students should remain at home and seek advice from their own doctor or from NHS Direct
  • avoid touching their eyes, mouth or nose with unwashed hands.
  • avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • greet each other with a raised hand, not a hand-shake.

(d) When flu-like symptoms are present

Any pupil or member of staff who experiences a fever, cough or shortness of breath (however mild) should:

  • Stay at home, in the medical centre or their bedroom in School accommodation.
  • Seek immediate advice from NHS England on 111
  • Separate themselves from other people.
  • Contact Ackworth School, immediately.

Ackworth School reserves the right to ask any member of the community to self-isolate for 14 days if they knowingly act against the current policy.

Additional Measures  

In addition to the plan above, the following additional measures are in place:

Online Education Plan 

A pupil who is in self-isolation can expect to continue to be educated by staff at Ackworth School. Pupils, parents, guardians and agents will be sent a copy of the online education plan, when necessary. In order to ensure that this is possible, they must:

  • Check emails regularly and at the start of every lesson time.
  • Ensure that they have access to the internet.
  • Ensure that they have the equipment that they need to learn in isolation.
  • If the school is closed by the UK Government a full timetable would be maintained through the use of videos on Planet eStream. Email will also be utilised to ensure workflow between staff and pupils. GCSE pupils will have access to Century Tech which will enable them to revise for the five core subjects. Parents and pupils should feel reassured that work will be set and marked if the School entered a phase of operating remotely.

Additional hygiene measures 

Door handles and other surfaces where hands may have contact, are regularly being sterilised.

The School will put a ‘no hand shake’ policy in place. We will greet people with a raised hand, instead. Pupils, staff and visitors who wish to wear a face mask may do so. Further advice on Coronavirus is available on the NHS website.


All visitors to Ackworth School are being contacted prior to arrival and asked if they have been to an infected country or region within the last 14 days. They are also presented with a pamphlet on arrival outlining our policy and asking them to adhere to it.

Any visitor who has visited or had any contact with an individual who has recently visited an affected region, will be denied access to the School.

Forthcoming events, trips and activities 

We currently plan to proceed with sports fixtures, Parents’ Evenings, House Plays and other school events but reserve the right to cancel these events at late notice.

Sports staff are in contact with schools we play fixtures against to ask for reassurance that no cases of Coronavirus have been reported at that school.

Our current policy applies to the above events. Visitors who do not meet the criteria of our policy are politely asked not to attend.

Trips, activities and events away from Ackworth School will be cancelled if they do not meet our current policy standards.

Large-scale trips are currently under review.

Preparations for a worsening situation 

Ackworth School is prepared for four scenarios. At all stages, clear, accurate and detailed information will be sent (via email) to all pupils, parents, guardians and agents:

School Scenarios 

  1. a) Outbreak escalates, increasing infection rates, no suspected or confirmed cases at Ackworth School – School open
    • Follow current policy
    • Continued, regular communication to all parents, guardians and agents.
    • Daily monitoring of government and health service websites and other information sources.
  1. b) Outbreak escalates, increasing infection rates, suspected cases at Ackworth School – School closed temporarily
    • Notify 111, local health service and local authorities
    • Follow all guidance
    • Communicate with all parents, guardians and agents
    • Self-isolation for anyone considered to be at risk
    • Deep cleaning of all affected areas
    • Temporary closure if necessary
    • Restricted leave
    • Online education plan as necessary
  1. c) Outbreak escalates, increasing infection rates, confirmed cases at Ackworth School – School closed but boarders remain

As above.

    • Lock-down of Ackworth School (no boarders to leave school or boarding accommodation; local pupils not to commute on public transport).
    • Closure and move to online education plan.
    • Full isolation of boarders who are at risk, in isolation zone unless too numerous, otherwise in NHS facilities.
    • Partial isolation of all boarders who are considered to be low-risk. Everyone to remain in boarding accommodation.
    • Deep cleaning and catering plans are in place.
  1. d) Outbreak escalates, increasing infection rates, no reported cases but Ackworth School unable to continue to operate because of UK Government directives – School closed but boarders remain.

As above.

    • Campus in lockdown, no non essential staff or visitors
    • Online education

In Summary 

The support that we have received from the wider community has been overwhelmingly positive. Our position is robust and our single stated purpose is to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of all members of the community. With everyone’s continued support and cooperation, we are confident of achieving this and if the situation deteriorates due to matters beyond our control, we are confident that we are prepared to continue to educate and care for the pupils at Ackworth School.

If a pupil tested positive, a member of the School’s Management Term would contact parents immediately to appraise them of the situation. The pupil would then come under the care of the National Health Service (NHS) and we would be guided by their recommendations and the local PHE Health Protection Team with regards to further steps. Presuming that they were not hospitalised, then the boarder’s concerned would remain isolated but within our care.

Boarding students would be kept under close medical supervision and looked after by staff members. Day pupils would be expected to be isolated at home.

Parents, guardians and agents may have further questions and we welcome these. We ask that they are directed to your son’s or daughter’s Houseparent or Tutor and that care is taken to read this and previous correspondence from the School, prior to making contact.

As ever, we thank you all for your support throughout a complicated international situation.


Yours sincerely,

Anton Maree