As of recently, the government has confirmed that schools will be reopening for the autumn term and has asked schools to prepare for all pupils to return full-time, and that includes nursery, too. What is also asked is that schools comply with health and safety laws, assessing risks and putting in place proportionate control measures. It’s vital that schools review their health and safety risk assessments and adapt and consider extra measures reacting to the current climate.
Protective measures for schools
The government has set out some extra, adapted measures to those already in place. The protective measures include:
- More thorough hand and respiratory hygiene
- Enhanced cleaning protocol
- An active engagement with NHS Test and Trace
- Requiring those who are ill to stay at home
- Implement social distancing and serious efforts to reduce contact wherever possible
Social distancing in schools
When it comes to one of the main requirements – that has been drilled into us since the outbreak – social distancing is a tough one to manage when working in a school. The government understands this and it has given some pointers:
- Arrange classrooms with forward-facing desks
- Staff should maintain social distancing between each other and their pupils as much as possible
- When grouping children, avoid contact between groups
Whilst it’s going to be a difficult protocol to maintain, the government takes this into account but stresses the importance of social distancing and to implement it wherever possible.
Adapting the school environment around coronavirus
The idea of using canteens, toilets and kitchens in the school environment, brings a chaotic scene to the mind. Hundreds of children will be in and out daily, so what can you do to help the school environment adapt?
Consider more breakout areas around school. Many schools have already implemented these for intervention and guided reading groups but for the extra measures to consider, this will further help reduce contacts. There are many space-efficient tables to opt for. If this proves tricky, many intervention teachers take groups to outdoor areas too.
Have some canteen seats off limits
When it comes to canteens, it’s a good idea to reorganise the queuing system, you could opt for floor stamps like many retail shops have to signpost appropriate distancing. Also, for canteen tables it would be wise to have markers or signs to help break out groups on tables. Have some canteen seats off limits with seat signs. Consider setting up outdoor areas for even better ventilation.
Provide social distancing protective screens
For the ICT rooms or smaller areas where social distancing is more difficult, provide social distancing protective screens.
Keep toilets well stocked
For toilets, just like you should be checking already, make sure they are well stocked and have plenty ready in storage. This includes toilet paper, hand wash and hand sanitiser. It’s also a good idea to provide sanitary products for your female students and staff.
Make more space in classrooms
Make sure classrooms are adapted appropriately. Again this may be difficult but every little helps. If you have enough room and space, rejig the seating and use whatever you have in storage e.g. add some beanbags for extra seating space.
It may be worthwhile reorganising lockers and breaking up units to help spread them out to help with those chaotic transitions between classes. And for school offices, make sure you have the best office storage.
Hygiene in school
When it comes to thinking about long-term virus protection, consider these tips to help maintain hygiene in all school areas:
- Make sure antibacterial wipes and hand sanitisers are available in classrooms, breakout areas and canteens. Wipe down sides and equipment before and after use. Don’t forget labs and chemistry equipment as well as desks and chairs
- Give wipes and hand sanitiser to each student for their desk and encourage regular cleaning throughout the day
- Review your cleaning protocol and make sure they are up-to-date with government guidelines
- In canteen areas, make sure kitchen staff are extra protected. If they aren’t already, consider wearing different gloves when cleaning down and serving food. Also, consider face visors as well as face masks
- Encourage pupils and parents to bring in their own hand sanitiser and face masks but it’s best to provide disposable masks on premises