ALL children at a North-East secondary school will have to learn from home because almost a third of staff are off due to the coronavirus crisis.

North Durham Academy, in Stanley, has moved to remote learning due to 31 per cent of staff being absent.

A further three members of staff have recently tested positive for the virus.

In a letter to parents, Principal Angela Sweeten said the school was facing ‘considerable challenges’.

Mrs Sweeten said: “I am sorry to report that, despite all these efforts, we have had a further three positive cases.

“The majority of the confirmed cases are staff members and you will recognise that a positive case often leads to other individuals having to self-isolate.

“The cumulative effect of this is that 31 per cent of our teaching staff are currently absent.

“On Wednesday, October 14 we consulted with Public Health England and Durham Local Outbreak Team who have agreed that the most appropriate course of action is to move to a remote learning situation as soon as practicable until after half term.

“Therefore, as of Friday, October 16, we have decided to move to a remote learning situation for all year groups.

“We will operate a skeleton staff in the academy to respond to phone calls and we will support any key worker and vulnerable students, as we did during the lockdown.”

Principal Sweeten added: “We strongly believe this action will ensure that all staff and students will have adequate time to minimise further contact with each other, therefore supporting a full complement of staff on our return after half-term.”

North Durham MP Kevan Jones said this would have knock on effect on working parents in the community, and highlighted the need for getting an effective test, track and trace system in place as a matter of urgency.

The Northern Echo:

He said: “This shows the pressures there are on schools, not just in terms of pupils but also staffing.

“If it is going online it is important to ensure that those who are vulnerable have still got access to learning.

“The problem is one decision has a knock effect on another.

"It will have a huge effect on working parents because they will have to ensure that childcare is put in place.

“Until locally we get effective testing and tracing so we can isolate those who need to be isolated we are not going to get on top of this.”

Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s director of public health, said: “We are working closely with North Durham Academy and Public Health England in response to the small number of positive tests for coronavirus among students and staff and the need for those people and their close contacts to self-isolate.

“We support the academy’s decision to move to remote learning in the interests of the welfare of students, staff and the wider community; and will continue to support and advise its leadership in relation to infection control.”