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Covid-19: Birchwood High School sixth form shut after four students test positive and Stortford parents warned by police of fines if their children repeat rules breaches

Parents of students at Bishop's Stortford schools have been warned by police that they face being fined if their children are caught breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules a second time.

The warning comes in a message from Tea Prow, a PCSO (police community support officer) and schools liaison officer in Hertfordshire Constabulary's Bishop's Stortford Safer Neighbourhood Team.

It was sent to the admin email addresses of all the secondary schools in Bishop's Stortford. The senior leadership team at Birchwood High School, the secondary in Parsonage Lane, took the decision to forward it to parents and carers of its students.

It was issued last Wednesday (November 11) – in the week that four Birchwood sixth-form students tested positive for Covid-19. As a result, the school has shut its sixth form for two weeks and A-level students are working online from home.

Headteacher Dr Chris Ingate said that these were not cases of school-to-school transmission and that Birchwood was taking precautions and following the advice of education authority Herts County Council and the Government's Department for Education.

He said: "Everything else is calm. We have 95% attendance and no Covid cases among staff at the moment."

PCSO Prow says officers are having "continuous issues with school students" gathering in the town centre, in parks and at bus stops.

It contains a reminder that students are in a 'bubble' only while in school and that outside they must observe the 'rule of two' and wear masks when within two metres of each other – but wrongly states that students must wear masks while waiting at bus stops.

The message ends with a warning that officers are being "very strongly encouraged" to issue fines on the basis that if a child in breach of restrictions has their details taken and is caught again, their parents will be fined.

One Birchwood parent called it "a massive overstepping of the law by an overzealous PCSO".

They told the Indie: "What laws do the police's Safer Neighbourhood Team think these children are breaking by not wearing masks outdoors at a bus stop?

"And do they have the power to issue fines to anyone queueing at a bus stop who has no control over who might stand too near them, let alone to the parents of children doing so?"

Another parent said: "I would be interested to know whether this was officially approved and get clarity about how they are justifying this approach."

PCSO Tea Prow's message in full

"Unfortunately, local officers are having continuous issues with school students gathering at the end of school in areas such as parks, bus stops, in town, Jackson Square etc.

"Please can all students be aware of the rule of two.

"We understand bus stops are a difficult thing, but all students need to be wearing masks while waiting and whilst on the bus.

"They are only in a 'bubble' in school, but once outside they are no longer in that bubble and need to be following the rule of 2 and wearing masks when closer than 2m.

"We are now being very strongly encouraged to issue fines and work on a one-warning basis, where we will take details down and if caught again parents will receive a fine."

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