'Anti-vaxxers' target Winterbourne Academy

October 27 2021
'Anti-vaxxers' target Winterbourne Academy

THE head of the trust which runs Winterbourne Academy has spoken out against the actions of a small group of anti-covid vaccine protesters who picketed the school.

Dave Baker, chief executive of the Olympus Trust, said he was "appalled" by the protest in October, on a day when some of the pupils were due to be given jabs.

Mr Baker told the Voice: "It was just so low to think it is okay to attack schools.

"Some of the demonstrators were apparently known disruptors and some might claim a link to pupils at the school."

Mr Baker said the school was not administering vaccines to pupils but, rather, making its premises available to public health officials because it was vital that all 12 to 15 year olds were vaccinated against covid.

He said: "We are supporting a public health programme, and I'm really clear that it is really important for young people to get vaccinated.

"Mental health problems among young people are really high. The only way we can get back to normal is to have everyone vaccinated – including young people."

Mr Baker said around 100 pupils had been infected with coronavirus during the first half of the autumn term.

But he said new arrangements put in place this term had been a "game-changer".

Mr Baker said: "Because Winterbourne is such a big school, we have segregated break times and staggered dining sessions, and we still have people wearing face coverings.

"There was joy at the beginning of term. Pupils were just so enthusiastic about getting back to normal again."

Twice-weekly lateral flow tests have been made available via the Department for Education and the trust was even confident enough to organise a staff conference, involving 800 people, over half-term.

Extra measures were also put in place at the Castle School in Thornbury in October, after a number of cases of Covid-19 were reported, notably in Year 8. Safety measures, from wearing face masks to cleaning tables between lessons, had helped reduce the number of infections.

The government's intention was to offer vaccinations to all 12 to 15-year-olds in England by half-term, as figures from the Office for National Statistics showed around one in 15 pupils in years 7-11 were estimated to have had Covid in the last week of September.

However there have been concerns over the slow rate of vaccinations, with official figures showing just 14.2% of pupils in the target age group had been vaccinated in England by mid October.

The falling number of school nurses, absences due to covid infection and the reliance on using schools rather than also allowing children to go to mass vaccination centres have been seen as factors.

COVID-19 case rates were rising again in the area, with Office for National Statistics figures showing that weekly recorded cases in South Gloucestershire reached 2,596 over the seven days to October 22, up from 1,682 a week earlier and 471 during the week to October 1.

The Winterbourne, Frampton Cotterell and Coalpit Heath areas all had case rates of more than 1,100 infections per 100,000 people, with 79 new infections reported in Frampton, 79 in Winterbourne and 138 in the ONS Pucklechurch and Westerleigh area, which includes Coalpit Heath, during the week to October 22.