Everything feels different inside Barking Abbey School in east London.
And it’s not the usual end of term excitement.
Corridors and classrooms are empty, leaving this big secondary school eerily quiet.
We saw classes with a teacher inside, teaching pupils remotely.
And the reverse happens too; a classroom of pupils, being taught by a teacher at home.
The last week has been their worst for COVID-19 cases. On average, eight pupils are testing positive every day.
Out of 2,500 students, almost half are off school, either with the virus, or because someone in their class bubble has it.
The whole of year 12 is currently at home, along with most of year eight, and half of year 10.
One in five teachers is also off.
It seems amazing the school is still open. But after a whole term missed, headteacher Tony Roe has adapted to ensure lessons continue.
For weeks, he’s watched COVID-19 cases rise and had been hoping for onsite testing.
That’s now happening with a mobile testing unit planned for the school car park.
“It should dramatically reduce the amount of pupils that are out of school,” Mr Roe said.
While we were there, a call came in to say they were sending home several classes in year 10 after another child tested positive.
The disruption is massive. Next week is mocks week for GCSE and A Level students.
Chatting to Year 11 pupils, they’ve managed to keep up with studies online, but revising in a pandemic isn’t easy.
“GCSEs is a crucial year, the uncertainty has created a lot of pressure,” said Zaynab Nakhuda.
Her classmate, Meenakshi Farma, welcomes the school testing. “I was quite anxious at first, but knowing I will be able to get tested, to protect my family and others, it’s a good thing,” she said.
Barking and Dagenham has seen a surge in 11 to 18-year-olds testing positive.
Prakshan Vasuthan, also in Year 11, has a theory why this is happening. “After school students like to mingle in shops. That creates the transmission, because the bubbles only apply in school, not after,” she said.
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