School pupils take 'authorised absence' after Italy coronavirus outbreak

A Carlisle school is allowing pupils to work from home because of fears about the possible spread of coronavirus.

Teenagers at Austin Friars School are now allowed to take an "authorised absence" following a skiing the trip to northern Italy.

While they didn't visit the Lombardy region which is the centre of the outbreak, travellers returning to the UK from the area were told they may need to self-isolate as part of measures to stop the spread of illness.

In a message to parents, headteacher Matthew Harris said: "The safety of staff and pupils is naturally of paramount importance to the school and we are following developments very closely, drawing not only on the advice from Public Health England and the NHS but the Department of Education, Independent Schools’ organisations and local authorities.

"We recognise that parents may wish to exercise parental choice and determine their own approach; having taken into account their perception of the risk, their personal circumstances and the impact of two weeks absence from school.

"The school will not oppose such a decision and it will be regarded as an authorised absence."

A woman wears a face mask in Milan, Italy, after 400 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Credit: PA

Several schools across the UK have closed to protect pupils and staff against the spread of coronavirus.

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock said official advice has been changed - those returning from anywhere north of Pisa should self-isolate if they develop flu-like symptoms.

Public Health England confirmed, however, that it is not advising schools shut in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The Health Secretary also advised any Britons returning to the UK to call NHS 111 if they showed symptoms of the virus.

For full advice from Public Health England about how to self-isolate, click here.