AN ACADEMY leader and former headteacher says the decision to close schools should have come earlier – while Wychavon has seen a record high for Covid cases.

The infection rate across Wychavon has gone up from 224.8 cases per 100,000 people on Christmas Eve to 321.4 on December 31, in the latest figures. The rate was 72.6 cases per 100,000 people when the second national lockdown ended on December 2.

2,310 cases were recorded in Wychavon between December 25 and 31.

Following the rise in cases across the country, thousands of primary school pupils returned to the classroom for just one day on Monday, before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new national lockdown, meaning all schools and colleges had to move to online learning, with schools remaining closed for all pupils, apart from the children of key workers or those who are vulnerable, until the February half-term.

Clive Corbett, the former head of Pershore High and executive officer for Avonreach Academy Trust, which works with schools including Pershore High and Cherry Orchard First School, said he believes the decision to close schools should have been taken earlier.

“It was a little bit frustrating because on Monday the head teachers and the staff at the primary schools had returned and they were fully prepared for Tuesday,” he said.

“It didn’t come as a surprise but it meant that almost at a flick of a switch the schools had to adapt to online

learning, which they have done, but it would have been better in hindsight had the decision been made earlier during the holidays.

“I think it’s the right decision in terms of the safety of the children, because in terms of spreading the disease to others it appears we could be in a more dangerous situation now than we were in March and April.”

Charlotte Davis’ daughter attends Blackminster Middle School in Evesham.

Mrs Davis said she is annoyed the Government hadn’t taken the decision to close schools earlier.

“I was nervous about my daughter returning to school,” said Mrs Davis. “She went in for one day and then the lockdown was announced.

“I am so annoyed the decision was not made 24 hours sooner, it would have prevented a lot of stress and unnecessary risks to the children and teachers, on top of this due to the measures in place regarding keeping rooms well ventilated, my daughter spent the day shivering in her lessons regardless of wearing winter clothing; not an ideal environment for learning.

“But I can not fault the school for all their efforts, they are just doing as they are told.”

The new measures mean that once again all non-essential retail, hospitality and personal care services have had to shut in England, until the middle of next month at the earliest.

Lisa Whelan, the owner of Jelly Pickle Jam Tea Shop, said the announcement was ‘a sad but necessary intervention’.

“I think it was due and I can understand why they have had to do it,” said Lisa. “If it wasn’t for the fantastic support we have received from the Government in terms of grants and the furlough scheme it would be a completely different matter, but without that I don't think we would survive and it does keep businesses afloat.

“I’m really grateful for the team in the grants department at the Wychavon business section, because they’ve worked really hard in their own time as well as office hours to make sure everybody gets their grants.”

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will also receive up to £9,000 in one-off grants to help them through latest restrictions.

“The grant will definitely help us survive this lockdown,” said Lisa. “Even during the tier 2 restrictions there wasn’t enough footfall.

“The furlough scheme is helpful, but I’m trying desperately to keep my business going, because I’m very conscious that I’m an employer and it’s not just about me, it’s about other families and their income and livelihoods as well.”

Paulina Krukowska, who owns Beauty Shadow in Vine Street, said she was ‘absolutely devastated’ following the lockdown announcement.

“I finished on Monday and the news came and it was horrible, because we didn’t have time to prepare to close down,” she said.

“I was devastated that it was so sudden, the financial side of the business worried me because we’re just on the edge of surviving – I’ve built up my business and this year would be my 10th year anniversary of running the salon.”

Paulina, who is self-employed, added: “If we get on time help from the Government then we should be fine, but if not it will be the end of the business because we still have bills to pay. If we get the grant money it will be an amazing help and take so much weight off our shoulders.”

Following Monday’s lockdown announcement, Nigel Huddleston, MP for Mid Worcestershire, said:“Government decisions throughout this pandemic have been made based on evidence.

“When evidence shows a sharp surge in cases, we need to change our policies just as quickly. There will no doubt be quick changes in policies in the future as this virus continues to adapt and circumstances continue to change, but I am very hopeful that we will start seeing the impact of the vaccine by next month.

“I was have spoken with Health Minister, Nadhim Zahawi for an update on the vaccine roll-out and I am encouraged that everyone involved is doing their utmost to ensure it moves as quickly as possible.”