A SCHOOL headmaster has cancelled a family trip after taking the decision to stay at home and support Chinese students unable to return home for Easter because of the coronavirus epidemic.

Former Barnard Castle School housemaster Andrew Allman, now headmaster at Myddelton College in Wales, was due to celebrate his birthday in New York with his family at Easter, but instead will be in his study as the school stays open for its 40 pupils from China during the break.

Staff at the school have backed him by cancelling their own holiday plans to ensure that the students from China can stay.

Mr Allman, who was head of religious studies and psychology at Barnard Castle where he had been for 15 years until 2017, said his school had taken the step to ensure the health of all its pupils and to reassure parents as well as to safeguard the interests of Year 11 and Year 13 students who are due to take GCSE and A-level equivalent exams this summer.

He said: “The welfare of our students is paramount and all those from China are staying on with us at the school this week for half-term and for the Easter holidays from March 27 to April 20.

“I and a number of staff have cancelled holidays so that we can be here for them and be available to reach out and support them at this difficult time, which naturally includes those who have important exams coming up in the summer.

“We consider a safe option is for all of our students to stay here with their friends and be able to access resources of the school available to them, including the opportunity to speak to trained pastoral professionals. This also takes into consideration support that the students are able to receive for their emotional needs.

“In addition to our academic provision we have scheduled activities for them including a number of trips to places such as Lake District, Snowdonia, Portmeirion and Anglesey."

“The reaction of the parents has been twofold because naturally parents of British-based children were concerned about students returning from China after the holidays.

“They have been reassured and so have the parents of children from China who will now remain here and in the case of those taking exams not face disruption to their future plans.

“For them that includes gaining entry to universities like Edinburgh, Durham, Queen Mary’s University in London, Nottingham and Warwick.”

Chinese students at the school said they were relieved by the news, Martin Wong, 17, from Macau, said: “I really appreciate the school taking this decision because it means we can stay here with our friends and we have the staff here to support us because we wouldn’t be able to do that if we had to stay with our guardians.

"We have been worried about the situation in China but now my parents minds are at ease knowing I’m safe and being supported by the school and not at risk of contracting the virus.”