27th August 2020
Even as teachers endeavour to keep children in education and safe, new strains of Covid-19 have caused more issues and challenges for pupils, parents, teachers and schools. It’s vital to keep track of the latest government guidance.
As he announced the reduction of the self-isolation period to a minimum of five days, Sajid Javid said the change would ‘maximise activity in the economy and education’. Here we look at the current guidance surrounding coronavirus and schools.
While rates of Covid-19 infection rose dramatically towards the end of 2021 and beyond, schools remain open across all age groups, with additional school coronavirus safety measures in place. Face masks are now compulsory in communal areas and classrooms at secondary schools across the UK. All school staff and secondary pupils are also expected to take two lateral flow tests a week (three in Wales).
Such safety measures will be subject to constant review as infection rates change and we learn more about how the virus is transmitted. However, hopes of keeping schools open rely upon following scientific guidance.
Official advice and rules vary in different parts of the UK.
In Wales, for instance, some schools are placing year groups in bubbles and have staggered start and finish times. Scotland is also separating groups of students wherever possible.
In England, meanwhile, schools must contact public health officials if five teachers, staff or pupils in close contact with one another test positive within 10 days. Local health officials will then step up protective Covid measures at the school, including on-site rapid testing for two weeks. Extra cleaning and ventilation will also be required.
Again, this will vary from country to country, particularly in regard to bubbles and separating pupils for assemblies and at school entrances. However, according to the government, ‘face-to-face, high-quality education to all pupils’ is a priority.
In practice, this means that the government will now take all available steps to avoid closing schools. In addition to mandating face masks in all areas, there is also a renewed emphasis on ventilation in classrooms, including mechanical ventilation systems and opening external windows. Other than this, teaching should continue as it did before the pandemic.
Where bubbles are not required and free mixing of students is allowed (notably in England), social distancing does not need to be enforced, although it is clearly beneficial. The government in England has prioritised the wearing of face masks and ventilation over the need for social distancing. Increased risks of transmission in schools are reflected, however, in the need for lateral flow tests at schools.
Although teachers cannot legally be asked to perform extra duties, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to them adopting wider roles. These include ensuring pupils’ safety by enforcing coronavirus safety measures at school, as well as paying more attention to pupils’ mental health. Many students have lost family members to the pandemic, while all students have been affected by prolonged absences from school, school friends and in-person education.
Teachers and schools must act quickly in the event of a potential Coronavirus infection. If a pupil or teacher begins to display Coronavirus symptoms then strict protocols must be adhered to, including isolating the individual and ensuring full cleaning of areas they have been in contact with.
Teachers and parents must be prepared to:
There may be additional processes unique to the environment you are working in. This is especially true of SEND and PRU facilities where they may be setting-specific guidance around contact and PPE. It’s essential to check the policies and risk assessments of the school you’ll be working in!
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