Covid Scotland: Parents fume after leavers party at Edinburgh school sparks outbreak

One of Edinburgh’s top-ranking independent schools is at the centre of a Covid-19 outbreak after more 100 students and staff attended a leavers party.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 12:11 pm
Updated Friday, 25th June 2021, 5:12 pm

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The afternoon party, which was organised by staff for sixth form pupils at Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools, was held in a marquee set up in the school’s grounds on June 18.

It is understood cases of the virus have been identified in attendees as well as other pupils and staff who did not attend the event. Dozens have been forced to self-isolate with their families.

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Party of more than 100 pupils and students at Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools leads to Covid-19 outbreak.
Party of more than 100 pupils and students at Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools leads to Covid-19 outbreak.

This comes as Edinburgh and the Lothians saw their highest number of daily cases on record on Wednesday, with 830 newly recorded cases across the health board.

Some parents have accused the school of breaching government guidelines which limit outdoor gatherings to eight people from eight households. One angry parent said: “I am furious as the schools seem to believe that they can bend the rules to suit themselves while parents, pupils and staff now have to suffer the consequences.”

However, the school insists all guidelines were followed.

Principal at Erskine Stewart's Melville, Linda Moule said: “A tea party was held last week for our S6 pupils and a small number of staff, in an open air marquee, in the school grounds. A health and safety risk assessment was conducted ahead of the event and all guidelines were followed. The safety and welfare of our pupils is always our top priority.”

The principal refused to provide any further information and did not confirm how many positive cases have been recorded.

In an email to parents, Ms Moule stated: “Whilst I was delighted that we were able to host the Garden Party as safely as possible, I do have some less positive news to deliver. I have taken the very difficult decision, in consultation with other senior colleagues, to hold the Sixth Form Prizegiving Ceremony remotely. The decision has also been made today to cancel The Leavers’ Concert, which had been planned to take place in The Dean next Tuesday.”

A further email sent to parents and guardians on Thursday evening by Neal Clark, head of Stewart’s Melville College (SMC), confirmed the impact on the school.

He wrote: “Owing to a number of SMC PE staff having to isolate as close-contacts of a positive Covid case, we are unable to run the SMC games programme next week, though PE classes can still be managed.

“Given that SMC S1 and S2 pupils will only have 3 academic lessons on Monday 28 June (the first lesson is assembly), we have decided that, in the interests of the smooth-running of the school, SMC S1 and S2 classes should be taught on-line on Monday and S1 and S2 boys should remain at home. Pupils should register as usual on Teams and then join their lessons. If any of their teachers are unable to deliver these lessons on account of personal circumstances, pupils will receive a message via Firefly, or Teams.

“The full timetable for all students (with the exceptions of S3 and S4 Games on Tuesday) will resume on Tuesday 29 June.

“We are sorry for the late notice, but we find ourselves in a swiftly-moving situation and have to make pragmatic decisions if we are to run the school with sufficient staff.”

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