Avian Flu - Independent Schools Association

Appendix D to the xxxx Crisis Management Policy
(Published separately but to be read in conjunction with the xxxx Crisis Management/Business
Continuity Policy)
Note on Avian ‘flu’ and similar pandemics
The Crisis Management Team (see Crisis Management Plan) has access to detailed background
documentation regarding avian ‘flu’. This appendix details our response to a pandemic that
threatens business continuity and student safety. This policy is regularly monitored by the Principal
and the Crisis Management Team, to be updated when national and local advice changes,
informed by DfES and Dept. Health guidance. We recognise that the dynamic nature of an avian
flu pandemic requires a degree of flexibility within the contextual structure of regional and national
emergency planning.
Background – important information
No-one knows exactly when a pandemic will occur. When it does, it may come in two or more
waves several months apart. Each wave may last two to three months across the UK as a whole. If
a pandemic flu strain emerges overseas, it will almost certainly reach the UK; this may take around
a month. Once the pandemic arrives, it is likely to spread throughout the country in a matter of
weeks. It is impossible to predict its characteristics in advance, e.g. whether it will be relatively
mild, or have minimal impact on children; or be severe across all age ranges, or have its highest
impact on children. The lowest likely levels of infection and fatality would mean around 54,000
deaths in excess of normal levels in the UK, the highest likely levels over 700,000, over the course
of a pandemic.
The impact on our students will depend on the nature of the virus causing the pandemic. If the next
flu pandemic were similar to those in the 1950s and 1960s, most of the additional deaths would be
among the elderly, but the 1918-19 ‘Spanish’ flu pandemic had a different profile, with young
adults being most affected. There is evidence from seasonal flu that children secrete larger
quantities of the virus and for longer than adults, which can lead to a rapid spread of infection
when they are together in school or other group settings. There is evidence that other infections
(e.g. seasonal ‘flu’) spread less among children during holidays than in term-time, and indications
that closing schools and similar settings could reduce the spread of pandemic flu among children,
though it may not reduce infection in the adult population as a whole. As such, xxxx will monitor
Government advice on the closure of the college during a pandemic but may act differently and in
accordance with our particular mix of students and circumstances. As such, this document plans
both for xxxx to remain open during a pandemic and for possible closure.
How we will receive advice relating to pandemics in the pre-pandemic phase
Until a pandemic arrives, core messages on public health matters will come from the Department
for Health (DH) and the DfES will help to pass on these messages to schools and parents. The
DfES communicates with schools through emails to all maintained-school head teachers, and
monthly (online and hard-copy) editions of Spectrum, supplemented by writing to independent
schools with key messages. The Principal and College Nurse will monitor these and other
sources of advice, suggesting changes of policy to the SLT and Crisis Management Team, if
At the regional level, planning for a pandemic is co-ordinated through one of nine Regional
Resilience Forums (RRFs). They forward Government guidance on schools and children’s
services to the 43 Local Resilience Forums in England (LRFs, generally based on police force
How we will receive advice relating to pandemics in the pandemic phase
During a pandemic, DfES would publicise national messages, though any communications about
what schools in a specific area should be doing will be handled locally. Regional Civil
Contingency Committees (CCCs) will co-ordinate this, and will report to central Government on
the situation in schools and other services. Our regional contacts will be:
Regional Resilience Team
Government Office for the East of England
Shaftesbury Road
tel: 01223 372999
fax: 01223 372859
email: emergency@goeast.gsi.gov.uk
Our local resilience forum will be:
Secretariat of the Cambs & Peterborough Resilience Forum
Cambridgeshire County Council
RES 1403,
Shire Hall
Castle Hill
Cambridge, CB3 0AP
Tel: 01223 717620
In a pandemic, response and recovery at the local level is led by Strategic Co-ordinating
Groups (SCGs, again based on police force areas). These are the key bodies tasked with
delivering an effective and joined-up response.
Communicating messages about possible closure.
Given the above, advice may come to us from a variety of sources, both locally and nationally. The
Government may issue advice that, in order to reduce the spread of infection among children,
schools should close when the pandemic reaches their area. If the Government issues such
advice, Government Offices would in turn inform members of Strategic Co-ordinating Groups
within their area; the SCG members include LA Chief Executives. The Chief Executives would ask
their Directors of Children’s Services to get the message communicated to schools, including those
in the independent sector.
At this stage, the message to schools and childcare providers would be not to close, but to
prepare for closure when the pandemic reaches their area. When evidence indicates that the
advice to close should be put into practice in an area, the CCC will be informed and information
would then follow the route as set out previously.
It is at this point that xxxx will convene the Crisis Management Team and decide whether we
close. Our normal response will be to follow the issued guidance, but with many of our students
coming from overseas, we should be prepared for the decision to act otherwise. In certain
circumstances, the decision that best meets the needs of our students could well be different from
government advice and that in the public domain. Many of our overseas students, given their age
and independence, may decide to repatriate themselves at this point. The decision on whether to
close will be announced and communicated by the Principal. Factors under consideration will
include international travel restrictions (if any), time of year (if term-time or vacation), state of
preparedness and other local factors.
If the college has not received guidance to close, but is affected by mass staff and student
illness, the decision to close may be made separate to government or local advice. The
Principal will convene the Crisis Management Team to decide on closure. If there is no advice to
close schools, xxxx may remain open as long as sufficient staff are available, provide as
near to normal classes and curriculum as resources permit, and follow advice to minimise the
spread of infection among students and staff.
However, if the Crisis Management Team decides on college closure, staff should continue to
come into College, unless ill or caring for dependants. This is in line with government advice. Xxxx
will endeavour to continue to provide some form of education by remote methods for the duration
of the closure, to the extent that this is reasonable given the college’s individual circumstances at
the time. If closed, the Crisis Management Team at xxxx will be prepared to respond to information
from the local authority, which might be to re-open some or all schools, possibly only for students
who have recovered from the virus.
xxxx has agreed the minimum number of staff in different categories needed to continue
operating (partially or wholly), and whether there are key staff whose absence might lead to
A minimum of two members of the SLT – the Principal and or Bursar need not be included
in this number.
One house manager in each section of boarding. Below this number rationalization of
boarding can take place or boarding closed.
Three members of teaching staff in each college teaching building. Below this number,
rationalization of teaching or closure of the building may occur.
One member of the administration staff in each building and the Bursary (including the
Bursar). Below this number, rationalization of administration and possible teaching
functions will occur.
The College Nurse, if absent and paired with a significant downgrading of local medical
services, may result in full boarding closure.
Absence of the Catering Manager or 50% of his team may mean closure of boarding unless
meal provision can be maintained by other means.
50% reduction in cleaning staff may result in boarding or full closure where this is deemed
a significant threat to health.
Closure on welfare grounds and partial closure
The Government may also advise that schools in affected areas should close to students on child
welfare grounds, to reduce the spread of infection among children. Cambridge local authority,
acting on information from central Government via Government Offices and Strategic Coordinating Groups (SCGs), would inform all schools in the area when their area is affected.
In this context, ‘closure’ means closure to students. Staff who are not ill would still be expected
to come to the College, unless arrangements for them to work from home had been agreed by the
Principal. Advice to the FE sector, including sixth form colleges, is likely to be to continue operating
wherever practical, as without the younger students, 6th Formers should be at no greater risk than
the students in the other settings. As such, decisions regarding the continuing education of GCSE
students may be made separately from older students. Similarly, the college may change the
curriculum for all students according to availability of staff and health and safety considerations.
Thus practical and laboratory work may be curtailed and some staff redeployed to other activities
or asked not to attend.
All staff will continue to be paid through normal salary arrangements wherever possible.
Use of our premises
Local authorities have a power to direct a maintained school as to the use of its premises. LAs are
very unlikely to ask xxxx for the use of its premises, but we could be used under civil emergency
powers, if enacted by parliament.
Re-opening of xxxx
If all schools in an area close during a pandemic, the situation would be reviewed by the SCG after
a period of time, (probably 2-3 weeks, but this would be made clear in the advice to close), and the
LA Children’s Services Dept would inform schools of any action to be taken. It is possible that
advice might then be to make some provision available, possibly only for students who have had
pandemic flu and recovered. Those who have been infected and recovered may be immune to
further infection from that strain of virus, and may have cross-protection from any related strain,
though this not certain. Alternatively, (and more probably) advice may be to remain closed, in
which case schools would be told when the situation would next be reviewed. xxxx will follow this
advice wherever possible and practical, though further detail on the criteria for advising schools
to re-open and on the mechanics of local timing has yet to be published. Any conditions to be
attached to re-opening, or any specific measures to be taken would be communicated at that time.
If xxxx has closed when other schools locally have remained open, the Crisis Management Team
will monitor the situation daily and decide on partial or full reopening. The Principal or a member of
the SLT will relay this decision to parents, staff and students.
Remote Learning in the event of closure
xxxx will attempt to provide a reasonable level of education for students if they are unable to
attend due to premises being closed during term time. This will be via email and our intranet, which
will act as an eLearning portal. Work will be supplemented by on-line material such as the ‘BBC
JAM’. For those students without internet access, including those abroad, xxxx will attempt to send
hard copy work to students’ homes by post. Preference will be given to supporting final exam-year
students (U6th and GCSE).
BOARDING – additional notes
We recognize that in past flu pandemics infection rates in closed communities such as boarding
schools have been significantly higher than attack rates in the general community.
DfES strongly advise all families of their students who are based outside the UK to put in place a
guardianship arrangement for use in the event that their child is unable to return home in a
pandemic which might involve the closure of boarding at xxxx. Where a student from an overseas
family has no guardianship arrangement in the UK, the college should, at the start of WHO alert
phase 4, ask the parents whether they wish immediately to repatriate the student. Any student
remaining in the UK into phase 4 would risk being unable to travel overseas at phase 5 or phase 6,
due to possible disruption of international travel.
If a pandemic were to affect xxxx during term-time, and xxxx closed following Government advice,
some students may be unable to travel home and may not have guardianship arrangements in
place. In these circumstances xxxx should continue to accommodate those students, and should
split them into small groups to limit social mixing.
If a pandemic starts during a College holiday and schools do not re-open because of Government
advice to close, xxxx will instruct students to remain with their families. If a holiday period starts
during a pandemic, xxxx might require guardians to take care of any student unable to return
xxxx must check whether our insurance cover (or contractual agreements with parents) includes
the refund of fees if students have to return home or to guardians. Our ability to provide some
remote learning may be a factor in this.
External Examinations
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) wrote to exam centres in September about the
arrangements for special consideration. These arrangements would continue to apply in the event
of candidates being affected by a pandemic.
England-wide: Government overall plan: www.dh.gov.uk/pandemicflu. It advises organisations to
plan on the basis of a likely range of the proportion of people who will fall ill (clinical attack rate,
CAR) and the proportion of ill people who will die (case fatality rate, CFR), which would lead to
excess deaths in the UK between 54,000 (CAR 25% and CFR 0.37% - DH’s base scenario, the
lowest likely levels of infection and fatality) and 709,000 (CAR 50% and CFR 2.5%).
Regional preparedness contacts are at:
Local contacts: http://www.pfe.gov.uk/government/lrfs.shtm
Cabinet Office advice to emergency planners:
Information on the Civil Contingency Act: www.resilience.gov.uk
Overall Government advice on pandemic flu planning is at
and www.dh.gov.uk/pandemicflu ;
The current WHO phase of alert, at the time of writing, is phase 3 (since 2004); a pandemic will be
phase 6, see: www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/phase/en/index.html .
DfES defines the period “when a pandemic is imminent” as when the WHO announces (see
previous item) WHO alert level 6, UK Alert Level 1 – pandemic overseas, no virus yet in the UK:
the last level before UK Alert Level 2 - sporadic cases in UK. At UK Alert Level 2, employers and
schools will have 2-4 weeks before virus established in UK; 7-9 weeks before it peaks in UK.
For more general information, see Explaining Pandemic Flu
Government advice on personal hygiene education and general advice for young people:
www.wiredforhealth.gov.uk/cat.php?catid=838 .
General guidance on infection control, including personal hygiene and seasonal influenza:
www.wiredforhealth.gov.uk/cat.php?catid=917 .
DfES / DH guidance on managing medicines in schools and early years settings:
de=publications&ProductId=DFES-1448-2005 which has a chapter on dealing with medicines
safely, including emergency procedures (e.g. staff should never take a child to hospital in their own
car; it is safer to call an ambulance), and DfES guidance on First Aid:
www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/healthandsafety/firstaid .
DfES’s generic guidance on Emergency Planning, with a draft Emergency Plan for a school to
adapt for its own use: www.teachernet.gov.uk/emergencies .
Employees have rights to time off for dependants, see:
www.dti.gov.uk/er/time_off_deps.htm .
Advice on supporting a school where a pupil has died is at:
www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/healthandsafety/pupilfatality .
Infection control guidance for contractors or managers of cleaning and catering staff: good practice
recommended by HSE: www.hse.gov.uk/biosafety/diseases/pandemic.htm ;
General background: NHS leaflet for families available from DH 08701 555 455 or
dh@prolog.uk.com or at www.dh.gov.uk/pandemicflu.
Information targeted at parents will be at www.parentscentre.gov.uk or
www.direct.gov.uk/Parents/fs/en .
The Health Protection Agency website contains more information on relevant issues:
Explaining the difference between avian, pandemic and seasonal flu
More details:
Influenza Pandemic contingency plan
World Health Organisation Alert Phases
Inter-pandemic period
Phase 1 No new influenza virus subtypes have been detected in humans. An influenza virus
subtype that has caused human infection may be present in animals. If present in animals, the
risk of human infection or disease is considered to be low.
Phase 2 No new influenza virus subtypes have been detected in humans. However, a circulating
animal influenza virus subtype poses a substantial risk of human disease.
Pandemic Alert Period
Phase 3 Human infection(s) with a new subtype, but no new human-to-human spread, or at most
rare instances of spread to a close contact.
Phase 4 Small cluster(s) with limited human-to-human transmission but spread is highly localised,
suggesting that the virus is not well adapted to humans.
Phase 5 Large cluster(s) but human-to-human spread still localised, suggesting that the virus is
becoming increasingly better adapted to humans, but may not yet be fully transmissible
(substantial pandemic risk).
Pandemic period
Phase 6 Pandemic phase: increased and sustained transmission in the general population
Checklist of further considerations/action
 xxxx will ensure back-up arrangements for premises officers/ key holders, bearing in mind
requirements of insurance cover, and health and safety of staff and students.
 Maintaining health and safety and hygiene arrangements to a high standard e.g. cleaning
toilets and prompt disposal of waste, at a time when improved hygiene is important.
 Staff hygiene and health training, particularly for cleaners and other front-line staff, and
ensuring sufficient supplies and backups of cleaning agents.
 Continuity of boarders’ meals provision/ advising parents of alternatives.
 Local arrangements for rapid access to medical help for use when a student suddenly
becomes very ill.
 Isolation of an ill student if their parent cannot immediately collect them or the student is
from overseas and does not have clear guardianship arrangements.
 Managing any significant new risks to safety arising from staff undertaking unfamiliar tasks;
Clarify policy towards attendance registers. For guidance: these should show that the
College was closed and students should not be marked as absent. The sessions affected
should not be included in the number of available sessions when compiling attendance
data returns.
In the case of staff absences, full or partial closure, we should ensure that we have
accurate contact details for all so that we may communicate effectively. This includes text
contact details of all students who may be in transit when a decision on closure is made.
SLT and Trustees’ awareness of overall UK Government advice on pandemic flu planning,
and the current World Health Organisation (WHO) phase of alert, DfES generic guidance
on emergency planning, which includes a draft emergency plan for a school, and
Government advice on personal hygiene education.
arrangements to continually review emergency planning, including this document.
ensure that xxxx staff are aware of general advice for young people, and general guidance
on infection control, including personal hygiene and seasonal influenza.
Review policies for staff taking time off short-term to care for a sick member of their family,
and of staff rights to time off for dependants – usually unpaid, unless agreed
Providing staff, or helping staff to access, information relevant to their own health in a
pandemic. Ensure positive encouragement to staff who are ill or think they are ill during a
pandemic, not to come into work. Check your personnel policies: review them if needed, to
achieve this;
think ahead about reasonable measures to support any staff while their own child has flu;
such staff might be able to do some work from home. Check your existing local
arrangements on entitlement to leave of absence;