Is it safe to return to school? What the Government Advise, Teachers and Unions say

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The Return to School for Some

The DfE has finally published additional information for schools after the initial announcement on Sunday 10th May 2020. Some primary schools may open their doors and allow students to return to school as early as 1st June 2020. The new guidance also reveals that schools and colleges will be expected to provide some face to face support for year 10 and year 12 pupils, from 1st June 2020.

Personal Protective Equipment

The guidance states PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is not deemed to be necessary for most education staff beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are unable to maintain the recommended 2-meter distance from others. The occasions where PPE is needed are for those children where PPE is already being used as part of their routine care and if a child shows symptoms of coronavirus and needs direct care until they return home.

2 Meter Distancing

The guidance states class sizes should be made smaller with groups no larger than 15 accessing a session. Also, classrooms should rearrange seating 2 metres apart. The guidance admits that primary pupils cannot be expected to follow the social distancing rule so should work through a hierarchy of measures:

  • Avoid contact with anybody with symptoms
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Cough and sneezes to be captured in a tissue and placed in the bin
  • Minimising contact and mixing

What the Government Suggest Schools Could do…

The government said schools should look at having a one-way system in the corridors, or put up dividers in the middle to control the flow of pupils. Each class should form a self-contained bubble so they do not mix with other pupils in the school. Pupils need to remain in the same classroom throughout the day with the same teacher. The classroom must also be given a thorough clean at the end of each day. Consideration could be to sit the pupils at the same seat each day if they attend consecutive days.

Lunchtimes should be staggered along with break times.

Schools are also being urged to plan parent drop off and pick up protocols that minimise adult to adult contact.

What Teachers and Unions are Saying

A vast majority of teachers have stated they would not feel safe if lessons were restarted for reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils from June 1st 2020. In a recent survey of teachers union members, of the 49,000 teachers surveyed, around 9 in 10 teachers oppose the prime ministers plans to open schools from June 1st 2020.

Headteachers are communicating that schools are already open and are supporting vulnerable children and the children of key workers. They are going to use the government guidance as just that – “guidance”. Headteachers are taking responsibility for looking at what they may or may not be able to implement. They will decide if it is safe to open the doors to additional children.

There has been a call from the teachers union not to engage with planning a June 1st 2020 return and that it would be impossible to get schools open for this date. Kevin Courtney, NEU boss, has urged its members not to engage with the plans until the government has issued more advice. Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT union for teachers, said a number of teachers are calling for access to PPE before they return to the classroom as they are concerned for the safety of their families.

Where do Schools go to Access PPE?

Education providers are being advised to use their local supply chains to obtain PPE in order to operate safely. Where this is not possible they can approach their nearest local resilience forum.

Juniper Education is able to signpost those schools that are struggling to locate PPE to organisations that may be able to support them.

PPE Exchange has a forum where schools are able to register as a buyer if they are struggling to find resources:

For further information please contact: [email protected]

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