Eton College has gone into “lockdown” as parents tell of their anger at boys being told to stay in their boarding house and have remote lessons following an outbreak of Covid.
The £42,500-a-year boarding school wrote to parents this week to explain that they are taking a series of measures to ensure that the virus does not spread throughout the school.
At the start of the week, around 50 students were told to remain in their boarding house for 48 hours where they received tuition remotely.
Meanwhile, the entire school was told to wear face masks and take daily lateral flow tests, with chapel and assemblies cancelled for the week.
Some parents are said to be “appalled” at what is going on, with one saying the school has gone into a “total panic”.
‘It’s like we are living in a two-tier society’
One parent told The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast of her frustration at the disruption this is causing to the boys’ schooling.
“The school has gone into hunkering down mode,” she said. “It’s like we are living in a two-tier society where young people are still being put into lockdown and bending over backwards for something they are not even going to be very ill for.”
Headteachers have been told by ministers that many of the restrictions which were in place last academic year are no longer necessary. Children are now only meant to self-isolate if they have tested positive with a PCR test or have symptoms.
But many schools have started to implement more stringent measures after detecting a rise in cases, picked up initially by lateral flow tests.
“This is not how we are operating outside of schools,” the parent said. “If I am in the same house as someone with Covid, I can still go to work. It is all very frustrating. We need to stop constantly testing children – otherwise they are on a knife edge the whole time. Parents have been appalled.”
Secondary school students are advised by the Government to take two lateral flow tests each week during term time, but should only be asked to isolate if they have tested positive on a follow-up PCR test or if they are showing symptoms.
Schools can step up measures if they see a rise in positive cases that could constitute an outbreak, according to official guidance.
‘Measures consistent with Eton’s Outbreak Management Plan’
Eton College, which breaks up for October half-term on Saturday, wrote to parents earlier this week saying that they have “seen a rise in the number of boys testing positive for Covid-19 in school”.
They added: “Following the advice of the health protection team, we have introduced certain measures to mitigate the risk of spreading infection, whilst at the same time providing the boys with as normal experience as possible.”
A spokesman for the school said: “Pupils and staff in one particular boarding house have been asked to self-isolate for 48 hours, either at school or at home.
“This decision was taken on medical advice, having consulted with our local Health Protection team and is consistent with Eton’s Outbreak Management Plan.”
The school said that pupils have been “free to move around the boarding house, including having regular access to the garden and to the gym, and have taken meals in a central College location, separate from other staff and pupils”.
They added that parents have been “understanding and supportive” of the measures.