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We are Engage • 2 Min read

28th May 2020

Safe Working in Education

Following on from our post about how schools might look post coronavirus, more information has been released by the government detailing how a return could be managed.

There’s a huge amount of advice and ideas around this topic. We are doing everything to stay abreast of the situation and bring you the most up to date education-related news as possible. Keep an eye on our Coronavirus Hub for all our latest articles.

The government has released specific advice around school settings detailing measures that should be taken to keep everyone safe. Whilst we don’t have a vaccine for COVID-19 it’s going to be important to maintain social distancing and increased hand hygiene as we end lockdown. Schools going back would be a big signal that things are getting back to normal and enable more parents to go back to work.

Across all settings, the recommendations include the following:

  • minimising contact
  • hand and respiratory hygiene
  • increased cleaning of the environment
  • limiting movement

Below we go into more detail about how these elements should be covered in different educational settings. It’s worth remembering that schools will only open on the 1st June if the government’s criteria for a safe easing of the lockdown has been met, it’s main concern is to keep the rate of infection below R1. This means that each person with Coronavirus is infecting less than one other person.

At Engage, we want our teachers to be as safe as possible whilst doing the job that they love. It’s important that a measured approached to a return to school life is taken, with everyone understanding the risks and how to fully mitigate them. Reducing direct (person-to-person) and indirect (touching contaminated surfaces) transmission of the virus are the key priorities.

PRIMARY

The first phase of the school return welcomes back nursery, reception, Y1 and Y6 children.  Teachers and school staff are being asked to prepare for these year groups alongside the vulnerable groups they have been continuing to provide care and education for since the beginning of the lockdown.

 

Recommendations include:

  •  Planning lessons around children working individually or in the same small groups which don’t change lesson by lesson. This reduces the number of individuals each child comes into close contact with. If possible, the groups should maintain a 2m distance.
  • Class sizes should be split in half where possible, with one teacher to 15 pupils. With several year groups not returning immediately, it may be possible to rearrange schedules so that classrooms usually used by absent year groups can be repurposed for smaller class sizes.
  • Spaced seating in classrooms, science and computer labs and dining halls should be created where possible.
  • Schools should consider implementing staggered starts, assemblies and break times to reduce numbers of children in any one area at a time.
  • Equipment both indoor and outdoor should be used by one small group at a time and cleaned thoroughly after each use. New cleaning protocols will need to be put in place with teachers, support staff and cleaners working together to ensure a hygienic environment is being maintained throughout the school day.
  • Removal of unnecessary items in classrooms that could cause a contamination issue or are difficult to clean on a regular basis such as soft furnishings or intricate toys.
  • Hand and respiratory hygiene practises should be encouraged in children of all ages. Washing hands between each activity or providing antibacterial gel at stations throughout the school are possible ways to manage this.

It’s safe to assume parents are going to have concerns about their children returning to school so communication between schools and parents will form a vital part of the return to fully functioning educational facilities. It will be the responsibility of the school to communicate changes to drop-offs and collections – parents should be asked not to gather at school gates, to maintain a social distance in the playground where possible and to refrain from sending their child to school if they display any symptoms of Coronavirus.

SECONDARY

The advice for secondary schools is similar to that of Primary, but children are older and more likely to understand the importance of maintaining a social distance where possible. It may be harder to police social distancing in larger capacity secondary schools, especially with narrow, heavily-used corridors. It seems unlikely that non-priority children will be returning to secondary school before September. This means much of the current advice is tailored specifically towards primary schools and younger children and we expect more on specific issues around Secondary education nearer to their planned opening.  We discussed some of the possible ways schools might operate post-coronavirus in our blog here

  • Timetables could change to ensure that groups don’t come into contact with each other. This could mean changes to the overall class schedule and times or staggered start times to lessons.
  • One-way systems and propping doors open could limit the opportunities for virus transmission when moving around the school
  • In some lessons it may be possible for children to remain in one classroom whilst teachers move instead of the other way round, reducing the footfall in corridors and access points.

SEND

We know that many SEND settings have continued to offer their vital services in the care of children and young adults who require additional, so are likely to have safety and hygiene practises in place already when the official reopening happens on June 1st.
Working with SEND students means teachers will be working with vulnerable individuals which may require additional protection from virus transmission. Government guidance dictates that if a student requires PPE usually for their intimate care, this should be continued and any intimate care providers should have access to appropriate PPE as they usually would.

The government has provided specific advice to carers and teachers of children with more complex medical needs and this advice can be found here (updated as of 27th May 2020)

 

 

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