Casterton College’s cautious covid rules prompt concerns from parents
Parents have voiced concerns that a school’s covid policy is having a negative effect on pupils’ education.
In a bid to keep covid cases to a minimum, Casterton College is going a step above Government advice and asking anyone in close contact with a positive person to leave school to get a PCR test. The pupils are advised not to return to the school until they get a negative result.
Pupils are also required to wear face masks around the school, unless exempt, which principal Carl Smith hopes will minimise the spread of covid in the school and the community.
However, parents of pupils of the school believe that this is instead having the opposite effect as pupils are missing out on valuable education time.
A parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Casterton College has been riding rough-shod over Government guidelines regarding covid contact tracing and self-isolation.
“Some pupils have been sent home up to four times this term and in many cases more than once in a week.”
The current Government guidance is that if you are under 18 and a half years old you only need to isolate if you test positive, not if you have been in close contact. However, academies are given more free reign to decide their own policy.
The parent said: “Department for Education guidance states that schools may refuse a pupil in ‘exceptional circumstances’ if it is felt that their presence on site may be harmful to other pupils and staff. I struggle to understand how the numbers being sent home at Casterton College constitute ‘exceptional circumstances’.”
They added that going against advice and requesting pupils take a PCR test puts extra pressure on the testing system and is an inconvenience to parents who are having to leave work to pick up their children.
A Whatsapp group has been created for parents who are trying to get the rules changed.
A parent to a child in Year 7 also believes that by not adopting the Government’s advice, it is having a negative effect on pupils.
“The children are losing time in the classroom which is massively detrimental,” they said.
“I feel that the school is operating out of fear that their cases may rise as oppose to accepting the risk”
However the school believes by having the testing measure on top of Government guidance, it ‘adds an extra element fire break’.
Mr Smith said: “I’m very proud of the fact at Casterton we’ve had exceptionally low cases, comparative to many schools locally and nationally.”
He added: “Our top priority has always been to make sure the health and wellbeing of staff and pupils, and the wider community, is put at the top of our agenda.
“So, we have throughout the pandemic managed things to reduce the spread of the virus to the absolute maximum.”
Mr Smith believes that some parents would want them to be more liberal while others would want them to be stricter, so the school is trying to find the safest solution.