St Philip’s school in Chessington adapts after Covid cases

Teachers at a special educational needs school in Chessington will be teaching behind perspex screens after half term to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

St Philip’s School in Chessington had ten positive cases over a 15 day period towards the end of September and into October, according to a letter sent to parents from the headteacher and seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Headteacher Ben Walsh told parents: “Of the ten positive cases we are aware of, the vast majority of people affected were staff. All of whom were staff who work closely with students for the majority of their working day.

“Having discussed the cases with Public Health England (PHE) it is evident we need to do more to prevent the spread of the virus with a particular focus on student to staff and staff to student transmissions.”

He said that alongside increases in hand sanitising stations around school and the use of PPE by the staff team, all teachers and Learning Support Assistants will teach from behind a Perspex screen after half term.

“They will set work that students are able to do more independently and will offer 1:1 support verbally from a distance or in very short bursts of close contact. This is to protect staff and students and also to reduce the number of staff required to self-isolate should there be any further positive cases,” he said.

He acknowledged that the measure “will undoubtedly impact the delivery of our curriculum and many students will find this difficult to adapt to.”

“These measures are in line with the new Tier 2 restrictions and have been discussed with PHE. We will revert to our usual delivery style, where staff move around the room offering very intensive and tailored support, as soon as we deem it is safe to do so,” he said.

It is hoped the move will also allow more opportunities for remote learning as the teacher will deliver lessons from one single place in the classroom.

“We will be developing a system where students can join live lessons virtually which will not only support those in self-isolation to stay up to date with their learning but will also enable us to provide that much-needed consistency and routine,” he said.

“We still have some work to do in ensuring we have the technology to make this happen but our target is to gradually increase the number of sessions we can stream live so that by January 2021, all lessons will be accessible virtually.”

Clair Hill, Head of Academies and Corporate Communications of Orchard Hill College Academy Trust, which runs the school, confirmed the new measures being put in place.

In a statement, she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “St Philip’s School have put a series of preventative measures in place to protect and minimise the impact of coronavirus on their school community. New Perspex screens are being installed during half-term to separate desks and help shield students and staff from spreading the virus to one another.

“The safety of students and staff is paramount, and parents can be reassured that these new interventions will help isolate cases and prevent the spread of coronavirus in school.

“Parents are also acting responsibly and informing the school as soon as their child has symptoms and when they receive test news. Students that tested positive are recovering at home and we look forward to welcoming them back to school at the appropriate time.”

Surrey Comet | Kingston