Huge Covid outbreak at Swindon performing arts school sees 85 test positive

A huge outbreak has seen 85 people tested positive for Covid-19 at an performing arts school in Swindon.

Wilkes Academy suspended face-to-face teaching on October 13 after a confirmed case of coronavirus.

It says there have now been around 85 positive cases, the vast majority of which affect students, the Swindon Advertiser reports.

Parents were informed immediately of the self-isolation requirements.

The school runs courses for 16-19 year olds from all over the country, as well as weekend training for under-16s.

It took the decision to isolate three year groups to reduce the risk to the wider community.

Principal Nikki Wilkes said: “The health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority at this very difficult and challenging time and we have gone above and beyond in our measures.

“We have been actively monitoring Covid-19 case numbers across the Wilkes community throughout the pandemic and will continue to implement a range of planned, increasing measures to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

“We are in regular contact with Public Health England officials. The current interventions remain appropriate at this stage.

“Full support is being offered to the students affected and is available 24/7 via our student support and pastoral team.

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“Regular support and contact with students has ensured everyone is kept up-to-date. Our staff are ensuring that everyone has access to food, supplies and clean laundry.

“We’d like to thank students for being so responsible and understanding at this time. We know this is a challenging ask so early into the academic year but, by working together, we can stop the spread and protect each other and our town.

“Please be reassured that everything is being done to ensure students’ wellbeing and prevent further transmission of the virus. We wish everyone that is unwell a speedy recovery.”

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A school spokeswoman added: “The support from parents to ensure students keep to the requirements has been incredible.

“In addition, the academy was able to quickly move to online provision to limit any impact on teaching and learning and in accordance with protocols.”

Swindon Borough Council’s director of public health Steve Maddern said: “We have identified 85 cases, of which the vast majority are students.

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"As a result we are providing additional welfare support to students and are able to provide food and medicines as required.

“We appreciate this current outbreak will generate some anxiety among Swindon residents, but it is important to recognise that as cases and contacts are currently self-isolating the risk of broader community transmission is low.

“Our public health team and partners continue to hold regular calls with the management team at the academy to provide advice and support to help them manage and contain this outbreak.”

Public Health England figures show 1,714 people had been confirmed as testing positive for Covid-19 by 9am yesterday in the borough, up from 1,684 the same time on Tuesday.

The number of UK recorded cases increased by 26,687 over the period to 789,229.

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