Schools field ‘daily deluge’ of calls from parents over coronavirus fears

Dave Lee-Allan, chairman of the Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads Picture: ARCHANT

Dave Lee-Allan, chairman of the Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Gregg Brown

A headteachers’ spokesman has told of pressure on schools as parents call in with a “daily deluge” of suspected coronavirus cases.

Covid-19 test centre signs approaching Ipswich Park and Ride Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Covid-19 test centre signs approaching Ipswich Park and Ride Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Dave Lee-Allan, chair of the Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads, also warned over lack of tests - and said he feared some schools might have to close as the cold and flu season arrives.

The head of Stowmarket High School said: “Schools are already dealing with a rapidly rising wave of calls from parents and staff about concerns as sons, daughters, family members and close friends begin to come down with what in many cases ares ‘traditional’ bugs, colds and flu like symptoms.

“The pressure on front-line staff and headteachers to make the right call is too much, as none of us are medically trained and are responding to descriptions of symptoms.

“All we can safely do is remind parents of the guidelines given by the government as to the signs of a potential Covid-19 infection, and ask that the parents make the right call.”

The coronavirus drive-through testing facility near the Copdock Interchange in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The coronavirus drive-through testing facility near the Copdock Interchange in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

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Mr Lee-Allan said: “Prior to lockdown, schools became almost impossible to keep open, as more and more staff went home fearing they were displaying symptoms, something repeated in the student body.

“I do not see at the moment how this is not going to repeat itself, as we head into a period of time that is always heavy with winter bugs and illness.

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“I wish I could present a more optimistic analysis, but heads from all phases are already talking of the daily deluge of concerns of suspected cases. Meanwhile, we speak less and less about teaching and learning, other than how to prepare for more online learning.”

Amid concerns over lack of testing, he added: “It seems pretty clear that the system is currently chaotic and we all hope the government can quickly apply the necessary support to ensure that anyone who needs a test gets one quickly.”

Meanwhile, families across Suffolk told of their struggles to access coronavirus testing.

MORE: Frustration as Suffolk schools hit by coronavirus testing ‘shambles’Susannah Foulger, of Creeting St Mary, said: “I have been trying to get a test for myself, three-month-old baby and my partner, who is a key worker.

“I’ve been trying to book a test many, many times. At first it was telling me to go hundreds of miles away - no chance, feeling ill and with a young baby. Then it started saying ‘no tests available’ and now it doesn’t even get that far. It won’t let you progress past putting your postcode in.”

Shane Marsh from Hadleigh said he has not been able to get a test for his son, who is just under two, and is worried about his two older sons having to miss school as a result. “The whole thing just needs a complete shake up if I’m being honest, with a lack of local testing availability or a properly working system,” he commented.

MORE: Is your child well enough to go to school?

Other parents have told via Facebook of their struggles to get tests. Amie Davies said: “We tried to book a test for our 14-month-old, the nearest being shown as Aberdeen even though we live two minutes away from Copdock testing station.

“We then spent over 12 hours trying to get home test kits which arrived two days later - one missing a swab, another missing the liquid in the test tube. Only one was usable. We are both key workers as well.”

Ellie Robinson said: “We’ve just received negative results after a very stressful few days trying to get tested after following the rules when our daughters displayed possible Covid symptoms.

“We had to drive to Harwich from Ipswich, after being sent away from Copdock the day before because of a website glitch which meant our appointment wasn’t correctly confirmed. It’s been ridiculous.”

Christina Aquilina said: “I’ve been trying to get a test for my child who’s had a non-stop cough, literally non-stop , and spiking a temperature. People can say all they like about “common sense” but since they are the same symptoms as colds, how on earth can you know unless you have the test?”

When does your child need to stay off school, and do they need a coronavirus test?Children can get coronavirus, but the NHS website says: “They seem to get it less often than adults and it’s usually less serious.”

The NHS is advising parents to keep children off school and arrange for them to have a test if they have any of the main symptoms:

• A high temperature. This means the child feels hot to touch on their chest or back. NHS advice is that you do not need to measure your child’s temperature.

• A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. If they usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual.

• A loss or change to their sense of smell or taste. This means your child has noticed they cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

If your child has any of these symptoms, you should arrange for them to have a test as soon as possible, and keep them and their siblings off school until you get a test result.

You should also stay at home and do not have visitors until you get the test result – only leave your home to have a test.

If your child just has other symptoms, such as a sore throat, runny nose or slight cough, and, and they do not have any of the main coronavirus symptoms, official advice is that they can still go in, if you feel they are well enough for school.

The NHS website says: “It’s fine to send your child to school with a minor cough or cold. But if they have a fever, keep them off school until the fever goes. Encourage your child to throw away any used tissues and to wash their hands regularly.”

If your child will not be going into school, it is important to let the school know as soon as possible.

To book a test, call 119 or book online.

Contact NHS 111 or your GP surgery if you are worried about your child or not sure what to do. However, patients are being asked not to ring their GP or call 111 with queries about Covid tests.

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