PART of a West Oxfordshire secondary school will be closed today, after a winter vomiting bug struck a quarter of its teachers and more than 100 pupils.
Henry Box School in Witney is having to close classes to Year Nine and Year 10 pupils – aged 13 to 15 – as it struggles with a lack of staff following the Norovirus outbreak.
Deputy headteacher David Bell said it was the first time the 1,270-pupil academy had been faced with this situation and was hoping attendance would be back to normal by the start of next week.
The illness began to spread on Wednesday, when 10 teachers and 90 pupils were taken ill, and yesterday, 20 teachers, including the headteacher Wendy Hemmingsley, were off sick, as well as about 100 pupils.
There are 78 teachers at the school and Mr Bell said he expected more people to be off today, as people must stay away for 48 hours once they experience symptoms.
He said: “It is a really bad case, but with this many staff off we are struggling to be able to continue to teach.
“This is very unusual for us and I don’t think we have ever had to do this.
“For the past two days, we have been teaching in larger classes, but we expect more people to be off today.
“Because of the type of environment we are in, these types of illnesses do spread a bit quicker.
“We should be back to normal on Monday.”
Pupils in the two years whose classes are closed are to be given work to do at home. The year groups were picked to avoid those preparing for exams in Years 11 to 13 missing out on teaching.
Mr Bell said the move would also place less pressure on parents over childcare.
Public Health England said outbreaks of Norovirus happened throughout the year and many go unreported.
Spokeswoman Teresa Cash said: “It’s very common at this time of year. There are outbreaks of varying sizes right across the country.
“It is not a notifiable disease so Public Health England may not necessarily be informed about every outbreak but when we are, we offer infection control and general health advice.”
If you have symptoms:
- Stay away from work, school or college until you have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours
- Do not handle or prepare food for others until you have been symptom free for at least 48 hours
- Do not visit friends or relatives in hospitals or residential care homes to avoid infecting vulnerable people
- Do not visit your GP surgery or A&E. You will recover without treatment. Rest and take plenty of clear fluids
- Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly particularly after toilet visits and before eating or preparing food for yourself
- Do not share towels with others
- If symptoms persist or appear to be worsening, call your GP or NHS Direct.