Private schools are being urged not to overreact to the coronavirus crisis because parents will demand their money back if they close or send students home, MailOnline can reveal today.
Many of Britain's independent schools ran ski trips over half term and several chose the Alps in Italy - Europe's coronavirus epicentre where 12 people have died in the week.
Typical private schools charge more than £100 per day per pupil and the Independent Schools Association say parents at its 500-plus member schools are likely to ask for a refund if their child's education is disrupted.
The headteacher at Prince George and Princess Charlotte's £19,000-a-year prep school, Thomas's Battersea, is among the dozens who have shut or sent pupils home over infection fears after children and staff returned from virus-hit parts of the world.
The fee-paying Cransley School in Northwich, Cheshire, is shut all week after 34 pupils and staff skied in Lombardy last week with headmaster Richard Pollock ‘regardless’ of official advice from the Government that it isn’t necessary.
Princess Charlotte and Prince George's school, Thomas's Battersea, has sent students home in case they have coronavirus which could see parents demanding back £1,000-plus in fees per child
The £11,658-a-year Cransley School, a private school in Northwich, Cheshire (pictured) announced it will be closed for the rest of the week because of coronavirus fears - despite a Government warning to stay open
At least 13 schools have shut and 24 more have sent students or staff home after ski trips to Italy or half-term holidays to other hotspots
Cransley School charges its parents up to £11,658-a-year - so two weeks in isolation would cost parents approaching £900 in lost fees.
Neil Roskilly, Chief Executive of the Independent Schools Association, which represents 528 private schools told MailOnline: ‘Closing schools is beyond what is required at the moment in most cases although individual schools have to make those decisions independently.
‘There is a concern that parents might start asking for money back if their children miss too much school, although we haven’t seen this happening yet. We advise schools to follow the advice of Public Health England.’
Primary school in Derbyshire closes after a 'confirmed coronavirus' case
The school's head Anthony Tierney was on site early this morning to deal with concerned parents. He confirmed that the gates would remain closed for the day. Pictured, the message that was sent to parents
A British primary school has today closed for a deep clean after a headteacher claimed a parent caught the killer coronavirus that has infected more than 82,000 people as it continues to sweep the world.
Burbage Primary School in Buxton, Derbyshire, told parents and carers about the case last night. However, health chiefs have yet to confirm if it is correct.
Only 15 cases have been confirmed on British soil currently – all of them have been linked to the Far East and nobody has caught the illness in the UK.
The decision to close Burbage Primary School had been taken as a 'precautionary measure', according to a WhatsApp message sent to parents by headteacher Anthony Tierney.
The message read: 'Dear parents and carers, due to a confirmed case of coronavirus amongst our parent population, Burbage Primary School will be CLOSED tomorrow (Thursday 27 February 2020) as a precautionary measure and to enable a deep clean to be completed. A further update will be shared tomorrow. Thank you.'
There are now dozens of schools shutting or sending pupils home over infection fears - even when nobody is showing any symptoms.
At least 13 shut this week, with six around the UK remaining shut until next week, because in many cases after pupils returned from skiing trips to northern Italy.
Another three will not reopen until tomorrow at the earliest, and at least 24 sent some pupils home as a precaution.
The refusal to let healthy children return to classes comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons yesterday there was ‘no need to close the school’ or send children home in most cases.
On Tuesday, at least 18 schools sent pupils home as staff struggled to reconcile official advice with fears that some may have caught the virus on half-term ski trips.
The news came as it emerged last night that four children at Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s school were in self-isolation over fears that they could have been exposed to coronavirus.
The pupils from the private London prep school Thomas’s Battersea are being kept at home while they await test results.
Two are said to have returned from a trip to northern Italy, where there has been a major outbreak of the disease. One reportedly has a cough and the other has a fever.
The other two have not visited areas seriously affected by coronavirus, which is formally called Covid-19, but have similar symptoms. There is no suggestion that George, six, or Charlotte, four, have been exposed to the disease.
A school spokesman told the Spanish news website El Confidencial: ‘We are taking the potential risks connected with the spread of Covid-19 very seriously and are following government guidance to the letter around both prevention against infection and in dealing with cases where staff or pupils are suspected of being exposed to the virus or display any symptoms. We have a very small number of pupils who have been tested and these individuals are, as per Government advice, remaining at home pending their test results.’
Burbage Primary School (main) in Buxton, Derbyshire, is shut after telling parents they have a confirmed case
Kensington Palace declined to comment last night.
On the subject of whether schools should shut, Mr Hancock said: ‘If anyone has been in contact with a suspected case in a childcare or an educational setting, no special measures are required while test results are awaited. There is no need to close the school or send other students or staff home.’
He said pupils awaiting coronavirus test results would be ‘advised individually about returning to education’ if they test negative.
‘In most cases, closure... will be unnecessary, but this will be a local decision based on various factors, including professional advice,’ he added. ‘The message that we do not have a policy of blanket school closures is important. Unless there is specific professional advice, or until there is a positive test, schools should stay open.’
Warning against mass panic, Mr Hancock said: ‘Overreaction has its costs, too, economic and social, and so we have to keep the public safe – but we also need to act in a way that’s proportionate.’
However, many parents were more concerned yesterday that infection could have spread before pupils who returned from Italy were sent home. Among the schools closed all week is Trinity Catholic College in Middlesbrough, where a spokesman said a ‘deep clean’ lasting several days was booked before the Mr Hancock’s announcement.
Andy Byles, whose Year 8 son went on a school ski trip to Verona at half-term, said: ‘From Sunday night my wife was told kids had to go to school. Thirty or so went on Monday. They should not have been at school, in my opinion.’
Archbishop Temple School in Preston, Lancashire, shut at noon yesterday and will not reopen until Monday – even though pupils returning from a ski trip did not visit a locked-down area of Italy.
Tudor Grange Academy in Kingshurst, Birmingham, said it would be shut until tomorrow at the earliest for a deep clean after six pupils who had been on a ski trip to Italy self-isolated when they developed flu-like symptoms.
Gedney Church End Primary School in Lincolnshire said it would not reopen until tomorrow while it was deep-cleaned, citing ‘a potential connection’ to coronavirus.
Cransley School in Northwich, Cheshire, is shut all week after 34 pupils and staff skied in Lombardy last week. Head master Richard Pollock said the decision was taken ‘regardless’ of official advice.
In addition, at least 24 schools sent some pupils home yesterday over coronavirus fears.
By contrast, St Christopher’s CofE High School in Accrington, Lancashire – where pupils spent half-term skiing in Italy’s Aosta Valley – was due to reopen today following ‘a thorough clean’.
Also open as normal today after pupils were sent home on Tuesday are Sandbach High School and Brine Leas School in Cheshire.
Paul Cosford, medical director of Public Health England, told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Our general advice is not to close schools.’
He reiterated that anyone who had been in a town locked down by Italian authorities should self-isolate. But those who had been to other northern regions of the country should carry on as normal unless they show symptoms.