Coronavirus: Tests for pupils with symptoms, no PPE needed and classes of 15

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Pupils eligible to return to school on June 1 will have “access” to coronavirus testing, the Department for Education has said.

The department has finally published additional information for schools, more than 24 hours after Boris Johnson announced the government’s intention to have some primary pupils return to school as early as June 1.

The new guidance also reveals that schools and colleges will be expected to provide “some face to face support” for year 10 and 12 pupils “from 1 June”.

On safety, the guidance states that personal protective equipment is still not deemed to be necessary for most education staff, and that primary classes should be split, with groups capped at 15 pupils.

The government also admits that primary pupils “cannot be expected to remain two metres apart from each other and staff” (further details on that here).

If there are any shortages of teachers, then teaching assistants can be allocated to lead a group

Testing for pupils with symptoms

In a statement released alongside the guidance, the DfE said that from June 1, “all children and young people eligible to return to their settings will have access to testing, if they display symptoms, as will any symptomatic member(s) of their household”.

The DfE said this would enable children and staff “to get back to school if they test negative, and if they test positive a test and trace approach can be taken”.

“Where a setting has a positive case, Public Health England will advise on the appropriate course of action, and the relevant group of people with whom the individual has mixed closely, should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days.”

However, the guidance also states that the “majority” of education staff “will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of two metres from others”.

PPE is only needed in “very small” number of cases, the DfE said, including for children whose care routine already involves the use of PPE due to intimate care needs, or if a child becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and “needs direct personal care until they can return home”.

Keep children in small groups without mixing with others

The guidance also sets out a “range of protective measures to ensure education settings remain safe places”.

These include guidance on reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups without mixing with others.

For example, the guidance states that for primary schools classes “should normally be split in half, with no more than 15 pupils per small group and one teacher (and, if needed, a teaching assistant)”.

“If there are any shortages of teachers, then teaching assistants can be allocated to lead a group, working under the direction of a teacher.”

This marks the first step towards having all young people back where they belong – in nurseries, schools and colleges

The DfE’s guidance also gives advice on staggered break and lunchtimes and drop-offs and pick-ups. There is also guidance on increasing the frequency of cleaning, reducing the used of shared items and “utilising outdoor space”.

The prime minister announced yesterday evening that he hoped pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6 would be able to return to schools on June 1, which would have been the first Monday back after the May half term break for most areas.

‘Face to face’ support for years 10s from June 1

He also set out an “ambition” to allow secondary school pupils with exams next year “at least some time with their teachers before the holidays”, and detailed guidance on how this will work will be set out “shortly”.

Today’s guidance says this is expected from June 1 as well.  But it adds: “We do not expect these pupils to return to school or college on a full-time basis at this stage, and so we do not expect a full timetable to be offered as schools and colleges look to minimise the number of pupils in school or college each day.”

The government subsequently announced earlier today that it wants all primary school pupils to return to school for a month before the summer “if feasible”.

This evening, the DfE has confirmed that alternative provision settings will follow the same phased return as mainstream schools, and that special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools will “work towards a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups”.

Proposals are first step to ‘getting pupils back where they belong’

In its statement this evening, the education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I know how hard schools, colleges, early years settings and parents are working to make sure children and young people can continue to learn at home, and I cannot thank them enough for that.

“But nothing can replace being in the classroom, which is why I want to get children back to school as soon as it is safe to do so.”

He said the proposal “marks the first step towards having all young people back where they belong – in nurseries, schools and colleges – but we will continue to be led by the scientific evidence and will only take further steps when the time is right”.

The DfE has confirmed there will be no penalty for families who do not send their children back to school, but that families “will be strongly encouraged to take up these places – unless the child or a family member is shielding or the child is particularly vulnerable due to an underlying condition”.

The department has also clarified that middle schools are also being encouraged to welcome back children in year 6 to ensure “parity” for those in the year group.

The three documents set out actions for schools, guidance on implementing protective measures in schools and information for parents and carers.



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  1. Tracey

    I like how he given permission for schools to use TA s as Teachers leaving us qualified supply teachers out of pocket again while un qualified take the lead.

    There i was thinking I would get work once schools returns??

    No furlough! No wages…. Wait till schools go back… Oh wait no work then either!!! TAs taking the jobs from us!!!

    This is all on top of already not getting paid to scale when we do work and not having a teachers pension.

    Why oh why did i bother??

    • Kalsuma

      Erm… will these poor TA’s get paid to do the teachers job they worked hard to get the degree in..? And how would parents feel about having Non qualified staff teaching their kids… would we let a non qualified practitioner in any other work force do what a qualified person should do?like and air hostesses fly a plane, nurse operate, a dental nurse act as the dentist?!

      • Sarah

        Believe me us TAs do not want to be in charge of teaching a class as like you have said we are not qualified teachers so why should we. I would also like to add that in the school I work in, only the TAs have been going in to support the key worker children. No planning, left to us all to do and do we get paid a teachers wage…umm No we do not!

    • Sarah

      Do you really think TAs want the responsibility of this ? No we do not…. so we are not actually taking your job away from you, we are being told we have to do something we are not trained for and will get nothing for it.

  2. Claire Thackrah

    I think this plan is ridiculous and callus. Children should be going back in September to allow time for the risk of infection to be extremely low. No protection for staff indicates just how undervalued they are. You obviously want to create a second wave as sending children back now is way too soon! I will not send my children back to school until I have confidence they are safe, and the staff are safe. Furious is an understatement!!

  3. Janet Downs

    The government’s plan will cause chaos. Parents expected to bring their children to school at different times. Pupils told not to use public transport. How’s that going to work in rural areas where the majority of pupils rely on buses to get them to school? How are schools going to manage an influx of pupils from specific age groups while at the same time catering for children of key workers and vulnerable pupils?
    And for what? Six or seven weeks of chaotic schooling. Six or seven weeks when not all children will be able to attend because they can’t physically get to school.
    Far better to have said, as they’re likely to do in Scotland, that schools remain closed until September.

    • Dianne Hemming

      As the children will be part time only, so will the parents need to be and if any one shows symptoms the children will need to stay home for 14 days anyway! What’s the point?

  4. I believe that if the government really believes that this plan is going to work that they should come into the school environment for the first week and lead on this. Let’s see Mr. Hancock come and deliver sessions to a class of 15 reception pupils and try to do what they are expecting teachers to do. Then tell me it works!

    Education has to be fun and engaging but if these young children are going to have to experience a regimental routine without the opportunity to play and interact with friends it is only going to scar them. As a parent myself, I have visions of these children in tears, desperate to go home and then refusing to come back on the second day. Please consider the mental health of these children and not use them as guinea pigs.

    These decisions are being made in Parliament, where they are allowed to conference call, but they want school staff and parents to put children into this environment based ion untested scenarios and theories.

    It is also absurd to say that teachers and support staff do not need PPE in schools. The truth is that the government knows that they do not have the capacity to supply this equipment to schools. Loo at the NHS and what they have had to endure.

    In saying schools are to be regularly cleaned, how will this be done? Will, the government give clear instructions, not guidelines? Are they also expecting already stretched hardworking caretakers and cleaning staff to go around with no PPE wiping everything with a cloth and anti-bacteria spray? What message does this give to the young children in school?

    Headteachers are also being placed in a difficult position when they are expected to open schools when deep down they know that they cannot fully guarantee the safety of their staff and pupils. They are the ones who will be liable under the Health and Safety Act for the failure of the Duty of Care of their employees and pupils if it goes wrong.

    No headteacher, teacher, or parent wants to see any child lose out on education but the real message jas to be at this time, Stay Safe, Stay Home, and Educate from Home. Yes, it is difficult to do this but with realistic expectations from schools and parents, we can still educate the children.

    I would like to see more of a dedicated TV channel, similar to BBC Bitesize, which had informative, fun, and interactive lessons shown for a couple of hours a day. BY doing this we can be assured that every child is getting the same level and quality of education, We need to get the balance between family and education right so we all come out of this stronger. Parents have now become teachers but we must always remember headteachers, teachers and support staff are also parents themselves. They have to consider their own family before going into an environment that potentially is unsafe.

    Let’s get this right for everyone and not make rushed decisions based on finance and the economy. Let’s protect everyone by keeping schools closed until at least September. Kill the virus first!