Key findings: how the DfE thinks schools can safely reopen

The government has this evening released guidance on how it believes schools can start to reopen safely for more pupils. Our main story can be read here. Here’s the key findings from the advice on safety.

 

1. Still no PPE required

The guidance states that “the majority of staff in education settings 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 2 metres from others”.

The occasions where PPE is needed are for children whose care “routinely already involved the use of PPE due to intimate care needs” or if a youngster becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms and needs “direct care until they can return home”.

A face mask should be worn by the supervising adult if a distance of two meters cannot be maintained, with gloves and an apron worn if contact is necessary.

 

2. Primary pupils ‘can’t be expected to remain 2 metres apart’

The guidance admits that early years and primary pupils cannot be expected to follow the social distancing rule of remaining two metres apart from each other. Therefore, schools should work through a “hierarchy of measures”, that are:

  • avoiding contact with anyone with symptoms
  • frequent hand cleaning and good respiratory hygiene practices
  • regular cleaning of settings
  • minimising contact and mixing

If schools do this, alongside regular hand cleaning, hygiene and cleaning measures, then the “risk of transmission will be lowered”, Public Health England states.

It adds that “brief, transitory contact, such as passing in a corridor, is low risk”.

 

3. Classes should be “split in half” – and TAs can lead them

The guidance says 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)”.

Teaching assistants can be allocated to lead a group, working under the direction of a teacher, if there are shortages, the guidance states.

Desks should also be spaced “as far apart as possible”. The same principle of halving class sizes should apply to secondaries, too, and it is “sensible to rearrange classrooms and workshops with sitting positions 2 metres apart”.

 

4. Classes should be sent home for self-isolation if positive test

Pupils or teachers with symptoms will be able to get tested. Where that’s positive, guidance states “the rest of their class or group within their childcare or education setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days”.

“The other household members of that wider class or group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms.”

If other cases are detected, Public Health England’s local health protection teams will conduct a “rapid investigation” with the potential for the whole class or year group asked to self-isolate.

 

5. Still no guidance on travel yet …

Lots of school leaders are concerned about how pupils reliant on public transport will be able to get to school.

The guidance states schools should “consider how children and young people arrive at the education or childcare setting, and reduce any unnecessary travel on coaches, buses or public transport where possible” – but provides no details of how to do this. It adds that “guidance will shortly be published on safe travel”.

But there are some tips. Schools should encourage parents and children to work to cycle to work. Councils are also urged, where school transport is used, to cordon off seats and eliminate face-to-face seating to “help passengers spread out”, and substitute smaller vehicles with larger ones.

 

6. Allocate drop-off rota for parents

Under a heading of ‘how to implement protective measures’, schools are urged to “plan parents’ drop-off and pick-up protocols that minimise adult to adult contact”, and to communicate “allocated drop off and collection times and the process for doing so” to parents.

Other proposals include discussing additional cleaning with contractors, stagger assembly groups and break times, and remove “unnecessary items from classrooms and other learning environments where there is space to store it elsewhere”.

 

7. Assign the same teacher to each group, and clean classrooms daily

Pupils should be in the same small groups “at all times each day”, with different groups stopped from mixing. Staff should also ensure the same teachers are assigned to each group, however it adds “recognising for secondary and college settings there will be some subject specialist rotation of staff”.

The groups should use the same classroom or area throughout the day, with a “thorough cleaning of the rooms at the end of the day”. Staff may also consider “seating students at the same desk each day if they attend on consecutive days”.

 

8. Set up corridor dividers, and toilet limits

Other tips include considering one-way systems, or dividers down the middle of corridors to keep groups apart, as well a ensuring toilets don’t become crowded by limiting the number of pupils using them at one time.

Halls, dining areas and sports facilities used for lunch and exercise should be at “half capacity”.