More than 100 staff and students at a performing arts academy in Swindon test positive for coronavirus

Face-to-face teaching at Wilkes Academy has been suspended after an outbreak of coronavirus. Credit: ITV West Country

More than 100 students and staff have now tested positive for Covid-19 outbreak at the Wilkes Academy of Performing Arts in Swindon. The local council says it is the largest instance in the town so far.

A spokesperson for Swindon Borough Council says, "It's a stark warning to everyone living, working and visiting Swindon that coronavirus remains a clear and present danger: we cannot let our guard down."

So far 102 students and eight staff have tested positive for the disease. The academy suspended face-to-face teaching on 13 October and isolated three year groups as soon as the early cases were identified.

It says that, although the number of positive tests increased in the student community, mainly due to shared households, the risk to the wider community is low.  

Swindon Borough Council says the risk to the local population is low. Credit: ITV West Country

Swindon Borough Council and Public Health England South West are in contact with the academy to help it manage and contain the outbreak.

The private academy, which runs courses for 16-19-year-olds, is supporting its students. Staff are making sure that everyone has access to food, supplies and clean laundry. 

Principal Nikki Wilkes says: "The health and safety of our students and staff is a top priority at this very difficult and challenging time, and we have gone above and beyond in our measures. "We have been actively monitoring COVID-19 case numbers across the Wilkes community throughout the pandemic and will continue to implement a range of planned, increasing measures to reduce the risk of the virus spreading."  

Hand washing is one of the most effective actions you can take against the spread of coronavirus. Credit: PA

Some of the measures introduced at Wilkes Academy to stop the spread of coronavirus:

  • Year group ‘bubbles’

  • Hand sanitisers outside all studios

  • Daily temperature checks on arrival

  • Extra hand washing

  • Additional cleaning regimes during the day and overnight

  • Staggered start and finish times in addition to staggered lunchtimes

  • ‘Zoned areas’ for learning to ensure social distancing

  • Reduced and flexible changing requirements 

  • Reduced uniform 

  • Two extra buildings for further studio space and smaller groups.​

The academy claims that the instance of new symptoms in students has dropped significantly and the latest positive cases are mostly delayed results. 

A spokesperson for Swindon Borough Council says, "While the risk of a wider community spread of COVID-19 from this outbreak is low, it’s a reminder of just how quickly the disease can flare up. We must remain vigilant and each continue to take personal responsibility for following the guidance and taking prevention measures to protect each other."