THREE Cumbrian schools whose pupils have returned from skiing trips in Italy have moved to reassure pupils and parents after fears about coronavirus.

The number of cases is continuing to rise in northern Italy, with 11 areas currently on lockdown, including 10 towns and communes in the region of Lombardy and one in the Veneto region.

Following a ski trip by William Howard School pupils to the resort of Ponte Di Legno, parents were concerned that the school had remained open despite being in one of the affected regions.

But headteacher Chris McAree said: “We are following the Department for Education and Public Health England guidance to the letter. We didn’t visit a ‘category one’ area, which are the 11 towns under lockdown. We were 120 miles north of there, therefore the guidance is clear: there is no reason for students not to be in school.”

The current Public Health England guidance is for those who have visited ‘category two’ areas – which Ponte Di Legno falls into – is to only self-quarantine if you display flu-like symptoms.

Those who have visited one of the 11 areas marked as ‘category one’ should self-isolate immediately for 14 days.

“We followed the relevant guidance and we have given advice. We have to accept the guidance given by professionals from Public Health England, Cumbria County Council and health bodies. To do anything different would cause undue concern.”

Mr McAree said the school had spoken to parents who have expressed concerns.

“We have had a few – we’ve had about six parents we have spoken to. We updated the guidance on Tuesday evening. We’ve followed our duty of care and are following guidance.”

He said it was “unfortunate” the other schools in the country had ignored the guidance and decided to close their schools.

Taking a similar approach to the situation is St Joseph’s Catholic High School in Workington which said: “They didn’t travel through the areas that were quarantined. We have followed the advice we have.

“The advice if they travelled through the area of Italy that they did is to call 111 if they show symptoms.

“We are trying to keep parents up to date.”

A total of 39 students were on the skiing trip to Austria, which saw staff and pupils transported through the eastern side of northern Italy by coach.

Austin Friars School in Carlisle has taken a different stanceby offering an authorised absence to anyone with fears about the virus.

“We are not advising people to take the time off,” said Anna Burns, admissions and marketing manager at the school.

“We are aware our visit in Italy was nowhere near the outbreak, but we wanted to give the reassurance we are aware of the advice but we want to give them that choice.”

The school is offering any pupil the chance to work from home, saying if parents have concerns it should be their choice.