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Group of Suffolk special needs schools to close following coronavirus guidance and staff self-isolating

A group of Suffolk schools which caters for pupils with special needs and vulnerabilities is to close from the end of today (March 17) following coronavirus guidance.

The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Academies Trust (SENDAT) includes Priory School in Bury St Edmunds, Stone Lodge Academy in Ipswich, Chalk Hill Academy in Sudbury and Angel Hill College in Bury St Edmunds.

Lawrence Chapman, CEO of SENDAT, said: "Today SENDAT has taken the difficult decision to close all its specialist schools and provisions from the end of the school day today.

Lawrence Chapman
Lawrence Chapman

"This is for a number of reasons. All students at SENDAT schools have special needs and some have additional health issues and vulnerabilities. The new vulnerable groups guidance clearly states those with learning disabilities should self-isolate.

"Staffing is becoming increasingly challenging, with staff self-isolating because a family member has symptoms, they have symptoms or they are now in the new vulnerable groups category as defined last night.

"We made this decision early on Tuesday 17th so that parents and carers have time to prepare and so that school staff can send students home with work and reading materials.

"Over the next few days we will be adding online resources to our websites and providing further information and guidance to pupils and parents, including, where possible, telephone support to individual students and their families.

"We will continue to work on procedures and guidance for all our staff, students and their families. We have in place detailed plans to phone families and those in the greatest need will be called most regularly.

"We are working on a plan to be able to support students with free school meals either with food boxes or 'meals on wheels' these plans are in the early stages but we expect this to be ready for next week.

"We will continue to monitor staff health and will consider re-opening in part or full when we have enough staff to safely operate and if government guidance allows.

"With the current guidance around timescales for self-isolation this is not likely to be in the next 14 days."

Priory School has 195 students aged 5-18, Angel Hill College has 15 students aged 16-19, Stone Lodge Academy has 174 students aged 5-16 and Chalk Hill Academy has 30 students aged 9-14.

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