15th May 2020
As the UK plans our recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic, businesses and organisations across the UK are looking at how to adjust their premises, processes and overall strategy to meet the new guidelines and keep their people safe.
With schools at the forefront of the discussions about a safe return to a working Britain and a date of the 1st of June ‘at the earliest’ to plan for, it’s a good time to look at some of the ways that schools may have to adapt when pupils are able to return – we are working to keep up with current advice from the Department For Education and regularly update our Coronavirus hub with the latest information.
A Staggered Return To Normality
It looks likely that a staggered return across year groups will be implemented. Allowing primary school children, for whom school may be some parents only care option, to return with safety measures in place will enable a large number of parents to go back to work.
Year 10 and 11 students that haven’t had exams cancelled are anticipated to be able to return in some way as well, whether this is with more structured remote learning or actually going to their school premises could depend on government guidance and location.
There hasn’t been much suggested yet for Years 7-9. The vast majority are not planning for imminent exams and are potentially responsible enough to be left at home while their parents are at work. It makes sense that these pupils would be a lower priority for a return.
Social Distancing For Schools
It looks very much like social distancing is part of everyones future, wherever they work. We’ve already seen supermarkets and resturants adapting their product delivery to ensure customers and staff can maintain a 2m distance. Perspex screens and spaced out queues are now the norm. Of course many schools, even the recently built ones, are not designed with social distancing in mind – something education professionals have been pondering since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s evident that we are going to emerge into a new world when the lockdown is over, but it’s hard to imagine how this might look in an educational setting. Many school corridors are less than or barely two meters wide, and classrooms may not have the space or layout to accommodate as many pupils if the two-metre rule is expected to continue when pupils return. Classroom sizes may be reduce, pupils in priority groups may be asked to attend at a different location and remote learning could become a more permanent tool in the delivery of the curriculum.
Relationships With Parents and Guardians
Understandably parents are going to have concerns about schools capability to manage pupils distancing. Schools will have to ensure regular communication with parents about return dates and how each individual setting will implement social distancing and encourage pupils to wash their hands regularly. There may also be attendance issues. There has been some suggestion that parents would not be subjected to attendance penalties on the return to school. Although the option will be welcomed by families, it could mean fragmented teaching for staff as they manage both remote and in-classroom pupils and raise additional issues, pupils in difficult home situations might not be picked up quickly – safeguarding practices will have to change too.
Increased Hygiene Practices
It’s clear from scientific evidence (insert source) that hand washing is one of our big weapons against the COVID fight. Most schools handwashing encouragement stretches to a few stickers on the bathroom wall. Handwashing facilities tend to be limited to bathrooms only in educational settings. We saw some success prior to the shutdown with anti-bacterial stations at key points around schools. The government also recommends face coverings for public transport or public areas so it’s not a huge stretch to envisage this advice being extended to cover other settings with groups of people. It’s inevitable that face coverings will be more prevalent as parents try to mitigate the risks involved in sending their child out into the world. CUrrent government advice states that it is not advised to wear face coverings in education settings but this could very well change in order for a larger number of pupils to return.
With no confirmed return date yet, it’s hard to know what schools will look like when we are finally able to return to some normality. It’s certain there will be changes for teachers, pupils and school staff that will change the ways schools are run. Engage are here to support our teachers through these times and we are able to offer support through our partners Educational Support.
The goverment have released several publications around anticipated returns to school and what this means school will have to focus on. Increased cleaning practices, reducing contact and mixing betweeen pupils and quick detection of symptoms if they do arise all form part of the current guidance to opening education settings back up. Read more on the goverments plans now and how the next few weeks might look in the most recent publication on this subject, on their website.
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