On the 10th May, the UK government issued its roadmap for recovery due to the COVID-19 health crisis, which included the opening of schools across the country. Plans included a phased return of students commencing 1st June.
Headteachers and school leaders were issued a school opening guide outlining the first phase of the roadmap; however local authorities, school staff, and parents are expected to carry out the execution and delivery of the school openings.
Social distancing is, of course, the main factor in the decrease in COVID-19 cases, but this presents a unique challenge for schools with smaller children who may not understand the importance of keeping a safe distance from their schoolmates.
However, there are top tips to take to prepare your school for the safest approach for moving forward.
School Site Safety
Many schools will have undergone a deep clean after the long lockdown period. Testing safety systems is imperative, so scheduling a fire alarm is highly recommended upon return to school.
Tracking of the virus is a priority to keep the public safe, with the Test and Trace being a massive priority for the government. For schools, visitor monitoring and school registration systems will be more important than ever to manage the footfall in and out of the building.
Cleaning and hygiene are known factors in minimising the spread of COVID-19, so school staff should consider:
Monitoring the availability of anti-bacterial soap and hot water in all toilets
Having hand sanitiser stations available in high traffic areas
Double-bagging lidded bins in classrooms and other areas to dispose of tissues and other waste
Implementing the ‘Catch It, Bin It, Kill It’ message for students throughout the school.
School Staff Audit
Remember that your staff may be as anxious about returning to school as students and parents, so it’s essential to review your safety measures with them to alleviate concerns. The planning guide issued by the government includes this staffing checklist:
What to consider when working out staff ratios
How many staff do you have available to work in school?
How many teachers do you have available to work in school?
How many support staff, including teaching assistants do you have available for work in school?
Do you have a head or deputy available for work in school?
Do you have at least one person with paediatric first aid training available for work in school?
Do you have at least one person with up to date Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) training available to work in school?
Do you have your individual educational needs coordinator available for work, or an alternative staff member who could take on this role?
Do you have a caretaker and cleaning staff, and if necessary, at least one office staff member available during the school day?
If the answer to questions 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 is no, then you should try to find a solution to this before going further. You should speak to your local authority and trust who may be able to provide a suitable person temporarily to cover 5, 6, 7 or 8. In some cases, staff members may be prepared to undertake a different role in their traditional role temporarily.
Maximum Safe Group Size
As mentioned, younger students will struggle with the concept of safe distancing and adhering to other health guidelines. School staff are encouraged to limit contact between children as much as possible by considering small groups. Some tips for teachers include:
Having tissues available for sneezing, nose-wiping, and coughing
Regular cleaning of all surfaces
Reporting any COVID-19 symptoms in children immediately
Minimising contact between children
No more than 15 children per teacher
Attendance Reporting and DBS Checker
The UK government roadmap and best practices include resuming your school’s attendance register and DBS checks. However, your school will not be held accountable for attendance figures during this health crisis. Parents should be encouraged to promptly report any absence, which includes the reason for the child missing school. Be ready to discuss the next steps if the child is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and urge them to contact their local health authority immediately.
Finally, the government has issued tips on ways your school can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, which aims to reduce the amount of contact between teachers, staff, students, and school visitors. Consider the following steps:
Stagger the opening and closing times between year groups to reduce volume at the entrance
Educate parents and carers on transport to and from school, including travel on coaches, buses or public transport where possible (for example, by walking or cycling to school) and avoiding peak times
Clear signage to guide parents where to drop off and pick up their children in advance
Arranging breaks or playtimes so that ideally only one group is in a play area at any one time
Keep teaching staff at a safe distance from each other at lunchtime or breaks
Manage assemblies to take place with individual groups in their classroom spaces rather than bringing children from different classes together into one large space
School Visitor Management
You should communicate with parents to make sure they know what protective steps you are taking to make the school a low-risk place for their child. This should include limiting external visitors to the school during school hours. If external visitors are essential, InVentry can provide your school with a variety of visitor management software to cover your needs.
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