A HIGH school has partially closed after several teachers went into self-isolation over coronavirus fears.

Teachers at Southchurch High have taken the precautionary steps, but there are no confirmed cases of the illness.

It has left bosses deliberating how safe it is to employ external staff at a time when people are being encouraged to distance themselves from each other.

The changes at the school, in Southchurch Boulevard, will come into effect today.

Stuart Reynolds, headteacher at the school, wrote to parents yesterday, to inform them of the changes.

He said: “As you are aware the Government announced last week that they have moved from the Contain phase to the Delay phase in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The Department for Health and Social Care have asked anyone who shows certain symptoms to stay at home for seven days, regardless of whether they have travelled to affected areas.

“This means people should stay at home and avoid all but essential contact with others for seven days from the point of displaying mild symptoms, to slow the spread of infection.

“This has meant that some Southchurch High School staff have had to self-isolate. As such it has become difficult to cover all lessons due to staff absence within the school.

“We are reluctant to employ external supply staff as it could increase the chance of infection.

"It has therefore been necessary to consider partial school close to ensure the safe, effective running of the school.”

Year Seven will attend each day this week other than Friday. Year Eight will not attend today, Year Nine will not attend tomorrow, and Year Ten will not attend on Thursday.

Year 11 will attend each day as normal.

Mr Reynolds added: “These arrangements may be subject to review as the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation changes.”

Chalkwell Hall Junior School informed parents on Friday via its school newsletter that a number of families were in isolation as a precaution, however, there were no confirmed cases at this point.

The newsletter, which appears on the letters page on the school website, said: “Firstly, I would like to thank parents and carers for their sensible approach to the ongoing worldwide pandemic.

“We continue to follow Department of Education and NHS guidance on hygiene in school and we will continue to update you with the advice from those bodies about travel restrictions and the need to self-isolate where necessary.

“We have had families in self-isolation as a precautionary measure and we have had no confirmed cases up to this point.

“Several families appear to be self-isolating, but those without symptoms who are doing so as a precaution, will see their children marked down as an “unauthorised absence”.

A nationwide petition was created last week which has more than 400,000 signatures, urging the Government to close schools.

In an Echo a poll, 3,900 readers said schools should be closed while 2,900 agreed that they should stay open.

Most schools in the area have cancelled all overseas school trips until further notice, as well as putting together contingency plans to allow children to study at home.

'We need to help our most vulnerable'

COUNCIL bosses are considering changing procedures, as the number of coronavirus cases rises in Essex.

Basildon Council leader Gavin Callaghan and Southend Council deputy leader Ron Woodley said talks are underway to upgrade systems.

It comes, as Phil Turner, Tory councillor for Billericay West and former Basildon Council leader, pressurised the authority to up its game.

Mr Turner said: “The threat of the virus pandemic on the vulnerable is real and potentially fatal.

“The Government is, I think rightly, suggesting vulnerable residents should be self-isolating for up to four months.

“I believe we should be leading and coordinating with a dedicated helpline and a clear message to the community on how we can help them.

“We need to start leveraging our council resources and volunteering partners, to ensure everyone can get the vital supplies, food and medication and receive the support they will need.

“This includes our approach to collecting council tax as many elderly residents, I believe, still pay in cash.”

Ron Woodley, Independent deputy leader of Southend Council, said his authority is considering all dealings in light of the outbreak.

He said: “We are speaking with the deputy chief executive about this and are still holding meetings but in the council chamber which means members are not so close together.

“The council will be looking at all aspects and how we do things.

“This includes collecting council tax and even how we help small businesses.

“These plans are still being formulated at the time.”

Mr Woodley said his council will be following any guidelines the Government announces.

Gavin Callaghan, Labour leader of Basildon Council, said: “I understand that there is anxiety and concern and would like to reassure people that we are updating our planning every day to support our communities as we move through this unprecedented crisis.

“Our priority is to make sure everyone in our communities, especially those most vulnerable, can access the services they need and we are putting all of our efforts into making that happen.”