The Covid-19 situation is rapidly evolving. Hayley Dunn presents ten key points to keep coming back to as the pandemic’s effects begin to be felt

Coronavirus is the most important concern facing school leaders right now. Their worries include the viability of school trips, the potential for large-scale absences and closures, and how to support vulnerable pupils and those preparing for exams if schools have to shut for an extended period.

Given that the World Health Organisation has today declared a pandemic, with cases worldwide exceeding 100,000 and several countries closing all schools, it is understandable that they are so concerned.

Guidance from the Department for Education and Public Health England for educational settings can be accessed here, and further information about the government response here.

Here are 10  steps all school leaders can take to plan and prepare for a widespread outbreak of the virus. Most will already have done or considered everything here, but they provide a handy checklist to refer back to as the situation evolves, and our responses with it.

 

10 steps to plan and prepare

  1. Start with checking emergency plan details, reminding families and staff to update their details, in case a closure is required during school opening hours.
  1. Revise or draft a risk assessment, ensuring clear delegation of responsibilities and decision making. It should take into consideration how vulnerable students’ needs will be met (including alternative ways to raise safeguarding concerns in the event of a partial or full closure) and identify staff or pupils who are at higher risk, i.e. those who have underlying health conditions.
  1. Communication is key to dispelling rumours and myths. Consider designating a liaison and communications role for keeping up to date with information and fielding inquiries within the school.
  1. For school trips, obtain a clear understanding of the cancellation policy put in place by the travel company, venue and transport provider.  Check to see if any changes have been made in the light of the current situation and ask if there are options to rearrange.
  1. Ensure regular health and safety processes and procedures are being robustly followed, checking medical equipment and plans such as inhalers, asthma plans and medication. Consider ways to reduce the risk of spread in and around school, i.e. additional hand washing on entering school and/or classes, waste handling and disposal.
  1. Consider ways to reduce person-to-person close contact and potential pinch points, such as assemblies, sporting activities, and group cookery/tasting activities. There are various measures schools could consider, but they need to decide what is workable in their specific circumstances. These could include individual snack plates for nursery children; children keeping water bottles with them rather than in communal trays; additional cleaning between dinner sittings; reducing self-service options from food service; and providing protective equipment for those preparing and serving food.
  1. Check consumable stocks and supplies – i.e. food, hand wash, tissues, hand sanitisers, cleaning materials and equipment– are in place. Consider alternatives if some supplies are unavailable such as changing school meal menus or a reciprocal arrangement with other local schools to support each other.
  1. Check that cleaning and site maintenance staff and contractors have appropriate and necessary supplies to undertake cleaning.
  1. If a site is multi-use, consider measures that could collectively be taken with the other organisations, such as asking all visitors to clean their hands before entering any of the buildings on site.
  1. In the event of a partial or full closure, provide clear expectations to families and staff of what work will be carried out. For staff, consider any additional infrastructure, equipment and advice needed for those adjusting to homeworking, i.e. appropriate working hours and use of equipment, login details and remote access. For pupils, check what equipment they have access to at home and consider how to support those who are unable to access digital resources.