Primary school headteacher dies after testing positive for coronavirus

Primary school headteacher dies just days after testing positive for coronavirus as classes are cancelled for all children – including those of key workers – out of respect

  • Roose Primary School head Wendy Jacob was diagnosed with virus last week 
  • She was rushed to intensive care at Furness General Hospital but later died
  • School has been closed – even to those children whose parents are key workers 
  • Did you know Wendy Jacobs and want to pay tribute to her? Email [email protected] or ring 0203 615 1637  
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

A primary school headteacher has died after testing positive for coronavirus. 

Wendy Jacobs was headteacher at Roose Primary School in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. 

She was diagnosed with the deadly COVID-19 virus last week and was rushed to Furness General Hospital’s intensive care unit but later died. 

Pupils, parents and teachers have been left devastated and have decided to close the school today – even for the children of ‘key workers’.   

It is not known if she had any underlying health conditions.  

Wendy Jacobs was headteacher at Roose Primary School in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

A statement from the school’s Chair of Governors, Fred Chatfield, said: ‘Dear parents and carers, It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that our headteacher Mrs Jacobs passed away today.

‘This is devastating news for our school and nursery community and all our thoughts and sympathies are with her family.

Mrs Jacobs was diagnosed with the deadly COVID-19 virus last week and was rushed to Furness General Hospital’s intensive care unit but later died

‘We are all in shock, and given these exceptional circumstances we have taken the decision to close the school and nursery fully tomorrow to all pupils, including those of essential workers.

‘I am sure you will understand that opening the school and nursery is not an option. 

‘We would recommend that all children we kept at home tomorrow.

‘This is a huge loss to our school, nursery and our community and I will be in touch as soon as possible to explain how we will celebrate Mrs Jacobs’ life and contribution.’

The headteacher’s death came as the UK coronavirus death toll reached 281.  

Deaths jumped by 48 in 24 hours yesterday, with victims aged between 18 and 102.

The 18-year-old, who had underline health conditions and lived in the West Midlands, is Britain’s youngest victim so far.  

As of 9am on Sunday, 78,340 people had been tested for coronavirus in the UK, with 5,683 patients confirmed positive.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the Government is ready to impose tougher restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus if people do not follow the guidance on social distancing. 

His warning came after parks, beaches and nature reserves were pictured packed with people enjoying the spring sunshine over the weekend. 

  • Did you know Wendy Jacobs and want to pay tribute to her? Email [email protected] or ring 0203 615 1637 

Pictured: Pupils, parents and teachers at Roose Primary School in Cumbria have been left devastated by their headteacher’s death 

Monday morning chaos at the closed school gates: ‘Overwhelmed’ headteachers beg parents to reconsider if they’re a ‘key worker’ as it emerges some are threatening to SUE schools that refuse to teach their children

By Martin Robinson, Chief Reporter for MailOnline

  • Experts suggested two million pupils could attempt to attend school today
  • ID checks at gates to root out those parents falsely claiming to have ‘critical’ jobs
  • The move comes amid concerns that over-stretched teachers will be swamped
  • National Association of Headteachers has begged people not to ‘abuse’ system 
  • Is your school ‘overwhelmed’ or have you been turned away at the gates today? Email [email protected]

Britons have today been urged to keep their children at home unless ‘absolutely necessary’ as schools were threatened with litigation from parents and the row over Boris Johnson’s ‘vague’ coronavirus key workers list rumbled on.

Headteachers have been ‘overwhelmed’ with education experts estimating that the parents of  two million pupils  – a quarter of the total UK school population – had asked for emergency places.

The head of National Association of Headteachers, Paul Whiteman, said today: ‘We are getting reports of overwhelming demand for places. This was never the plan. The plan was always to care for the very few who have nowhere else to go to help halt the spread of the virus. My appeal to the parents of these children is that if you are a key worker and can have them looked after away from school please do so’.

Schools ordered to close for up to six months on Friday have been told to reopen today to care for children whose parents’ work is ‘critical’ to the fight against coronavirus, which has killed 281 in the UK so far. 

Teachers have been given the power to ask parents for ID and payslips to prove they are ‘key workers’ – amid fears that many will lie about their jobs so they can drop off their children – with schools warning parents: ‘We will turn you away’.

Millions of children are predicted to turn up at school today despite a plea from headteachers to keep them at home unless it is unavoidable. A key worker arrives with two children at New Ash Green Primary School in Kent this morning.

Unions have claims that parents working in fast food chains, such as McDonald’s, have been asking for a place in schools insisting they are ‘key workers’ using the Government’s ‘food distribution’ definition in its controversial guidance.

The Government has set out its key worker definition to battle coronavirus – but many believe it is too vague and is leaving many schools and parents confused about who is eligible

Geoff Barton, general secretary at Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘The list is rather more extensive than we expected. 

‘That has led to some difficult exchanges, with parents saying things like, ‘I work in McDonald’s so that is food production.’ 

‘If your school is near a big hospital, health workers’ children will be your priority.

‘Some school leaders have had letters from lawyers – that’s a sign of how the extensive nature of that list has set the hare running. 

‘Head teachers are already having to make quite difficult decisions without getting into disputes with parents who think a school place is their entitlement.’ 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast today: ‘The most important message is if you don’t have to take your child to school, even if you’re a key worker, then you should not take your child to school’. 

Schools across Britain shut to most pupils on Friday. But headmasters predict a meltdown after experts suggested two million pupils could attempt to attend school today. 

Checks at the gates will root out those parents falsely claiming to have jobs ‘critical’ to the country’s coronavirus response.

The move comes amid concerns that over-stretched teachers will be swamped. One head has blasted the ‘disgraceful mob mentality’ of parents which may mean she cannot open at all.

Paul Whiteman, head of the National Association of Headteachers, has said that schools cannot cope and begged people not to abuse the key worker system amid claims McDonald’s staff have asked for places

Last night, the Department for Education released last-minute guidance, telling teachers how to police the children they let in based on their parents’ occupations.

Teachers said pet shop workers, carpet fitters, nail technicians and even sausage makers were claiming key worker status.

‘We know many schools will have already spoken with parents/carers to identify who requires a school place,’ the official document said. ‘If it proves necessary, schools can ask for simple evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker, such as their work ID badge or payslip.’

The guidance stated: ‘If required, we recommend asking for simple evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker, such as confirmation from their employer on what their job is and how it is critical to the Covid-19 response. If any problems occur, schools should speak to their local authority.’

Year 11 pupils, some with graffiti-covered shirts reading ‘Survivor 2020’ and ‘Class of Corona 2020’ leave a secondary school in Odiham, Hampshire on Friday

The document also revealed that teachers will be expected to work through the Easter holidays to look after key workers’ children.

Hairdressers and dog groomers have also been claiming they are included on the sweeping list of jobs ‘critical’ to the coronavirus response, a Times Educational Supplement survey found.

Teaching unions urged mothers and fathers to ‘play fair’ or risk a situation which will become ‘impossible to support’.

A plea was made to companies not to put ‘profit before people’ and ensure parents can work from home or schedule their hours so they can look after children.

Key workers are designated as those in sectors such as the NHS, transport, the food supply chain, social services, governmental and national security roles.

However, retailer Pets At Home gave staff a lawyer’s letter saying they were in a ‘critical category’ due to the need to keep up ‘the sale of food and other necessary goods including veterinary medicine’.

But one teacher remarked: ‘The Government stated schools are open for children of essential workers. Dog collars are not essential.’

Pets At Home did not respond to requests for comment. Education analysts said 20 per cent of pupils could attempt to go in today. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, yesterday said: ‘We are getting reports of an overwhelming demand for places.’

He also asked employers: ‘Do not put profit over people. School places are there for the most vulnerable and to keep truly crucial operations running.’ 

Dr Mary Bousted, of the National Education Union, said: ‘If schools are to limit their intake during the crisis, school leaders and teachers must exercise their professional judgment. There may have to be some difficult conversations.

‘Children who have one parent as a key worker should remain at home. Their other parent should look after them.’ Hundreds of thousands of pupils are eligible for makeshift ‘educational provision’.

But the Government’s definition of key workers is ‘too generous’ and has led to the risk of schools being flooded, said Neil Roskilly, chief executive of the Independent Schools Association, which has over 500 member schools.

He added: ‘Parents are thinking not only can I get my child away and looked after but I might even be able to expect some Easter holiday cover.’

Vulnerable children will still be cared for by schools, and children on free school meals will also be provided for. Schools chief inspector Amanda Spielman said yesterday: ‘Parents need to hear the message: Keep children at home if at all possible. Support the decisions your child’s school are making.’

Dr Mary Bousted, NEU joint general secretary, said the schools can only operate to help during this outbreak ‘if everyone plays fair’.

She said: ‘If schools are to limit their intake during the crisis, school leaders and teachers must exercise their professional judgment.

‘There may have to be some difficult conversations with parents, which could include saying that the school cannot accommodate your child and remain safe.’

Schools will not be expected to take a normal attendance register, but will be asked to submit a daily report stating whether they are open and how many children and staff are in school so capacity can be tracked, the department said.

The department has also published guidance on vulnerable children, with schools being asked to have a process in place to check on the welfare of any children in need who do not continue to come to school, to ensure they do not fall through the gaps.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said it is ‘imperative’ that different agencies understand who is responsible for children at home and added that social workers ‘will need continued support and resources to support those in isolation’.

He said: ‘We are living in a public health emergency and it’s never been more important for everyone to play their part in recognising and reporting abuse and neglect. Anyone with concerns about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline for professional advice.’

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