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CNN viewers learn from Birchwood High School students and staff

Students and staff at Birchwood High School in Bishop's Stortford showcased their Covid-safety measures for viewers of CNN as the autumn term began.

The Cable News Network, based in Atlanta in the USA, sent reporter Nina dos Santos to talk to principal Dr Chris Ingate and some of his teachers and other staff.

He told viewers that the Parsonage Lane secondary was voluntarily maintaining many of the Covid-19 restrictions introduced at the height of the pandemic, such as one-way systems in narrow corridors, increased ventilation, enhanced cleaning regimes and hand sanitiser, although face masks are now optional.

Birchwood High School in Parsonage Lane. Picture: Vikki Lince
Birchwood High School in Parsonage Lane. Picture: Vikki Lince

Students made it clear they were happy to be back in the classroom after long periods where remote learning was necessary.

Oscar Folwell said he had been required to self-isolate "five or six times" and "had lost the will to learn at home", but he was enjoying studying once more and hoping to go to university.

Birchwood staff and students are advised to take Covid-19 tests twice a week, which resulted in nine positive results in the first week of term. New rules mean the school is no longer required to carry out contact tracing, and quarantine instructions are now the sole responsibility of NHS Test and Trace.

Birchwood High School principal Dr Chris Ingate. Picture: Vikki Lince
Birchwood High School principal Dr Chris Ingate. Picture: Vikki Lince

However, schools are likely to play a big part in plans confirmed since CNN's visit to offer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination to pupils aged 12 to 15.

Dr Ingate told the Indie: "With the vaccines, we see this as a good thing. It's a difficult balance at the 11-15 age range. Most of our sixth form have been jabbed twice, but we need to listen to the medical profession. The important thing is that it remains optional and we will not discriminate against anyone who chooses to not get vaccinated."

When asked by the CNN correspondent if the Government was doing enough to keep schools safe, languages teacher Katy Roderick said: "I'm not sure the Government is but our school is."

She was filmed wiping down desks and opening windows. The Government has pledged 300,000 carbon dioxide monitors to alert staff and students if levels rise, indicating that fresh air is failing to circulate. However, a 1,450-pupil school like Birchwood requires 150 and has yet to receive even one.

Dr Ingate summed up the mood at Brichwood for viewers across the world: "I think we just need to get on with it. All of us are cautious, but we just need to get on with it."

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