Coronavirus forces £19,000-a-year Dulwich Prep School to close and headteacher blames NHS

And headteacher Louise Davidson has blamed NHS delays for the drastic decision. Meanwhile, Neil Roskilly, chief executive of the Independent Schools Association (ISA) has said the news highlight the enormous difficulties schools were facing – while stressing the official advice, handed down by Public Health England (PHE), was to remain open.

A letter send to parents today by Mrs Davidson said the school, which counts Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage as a former pupil, and which has 850 pupils, would now be closed until Monday at the earliest.

It explained: “Unrelated pupils from different Sections of school have returned after half term having been on holiday in one of the Category 2 areas.

“They were healthy when they returned but have since become unwell.”

NHS 111 have been inundated with calls since the half term break and the delay our families have had in accessing medical help has influenced our decision

Louise Davidson

The families of those concerned had contacted NHS 111, self-isolated and were awaiting the results of tests.

Ms Davidson added: “NHS 111 have been inundated with calls since the half term break and the delay our families have had in accessing medical help has influenced our decision.”

In a further updated published on the school’s website, Ms Davidson added: “Given the nature of our site and the movement of children and staff around that site, we must assume that any of our pupils and staff may have had contact with the pupils awaiting tests.”

Acknowledging the current PHE advice for schools to remain open, she said: “The Leadership Team and the Governing Body, which includes representatives from the medical and legal professions, took full consideration of that advice when taking the difficult decision to close.”

She added: “To quote Public Health England’s Medical Director, Paul Cosford ‘Schools have to take difficult decisions given the complexity of issues that they are facing’.”

The school’s Critical Incident Management Plan had been activated, with a deep clean due to be completed by Friday.

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The plan was to reopen on March 2, Ms Davidson said, but stressed this depended on events between now and then.

Mr Roskilly told Express.co.uk: “Schools are in very difficult position.

“The official guidance is that they should not close.

“Therefore, if a school decides to close, they not following official advice.

“However, all schools are different – a school with a purely local intake is in a very different position to one which takes in pupils from all over the world

“All of the people working at individual schools are in best position to judge.”

Mr Roskilly said he and his colleagues were reliant on advice from PHE, which is being published on a daily basis.

He added: “What boarding schools are doing is looking at where pupils are coming from and making decisions accordingly.”

With the Easter holidays not far away, schools clearly needed to be mindful of any pupils returning from countries badly affected by the outbreak – northern Italy for example.

He said: “Once pupils return to infected countries they are unlikely to come back and if they do, they face quarantine.

“The thing is we obviously can’t compel people not to leave the countries

“It’s clearly a very tricky situation.”

A PHE spokeswoman said it did not comment on individual cases.

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