Returning to school and college following the easing of lockdown restrictions

 

Boris Johnson announced on Sunday 10 May that if the level of infection remained low enough, children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in primary schools might begin to return, from 01 June "at the earliest". 

The Department for Education (DfE) have clarified that ‘From the week commencing 1 June at the earliest, we will be asking primary schools to welcome back children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6, alongside priority groups.  We will ask secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of year 10 and year 12 students who are due to take key exams next year, alongside the full time provision they are offering to priority groups’.

Your biggest concern is the health and well being of staff, pupils and their families.  Before returning, schools and colleges all need to consider managing the risk and uncertainty around the proposed return and ensuring a safe and healthy environment.

The DfE have provided guidance that can be found here. 

 

A brief overview of guidance

Have a documented plan for the phased return

  • Leadership team discuss and agree the return to school or college including who will return (consider staff with child or care responsibilities, vulnerable or at risk staff)
  • Revisit risk assessments and consider revisions required to reflect Covid-19 controls
  • Update emergency and contingency plans to allow for social distancing
  • Prepare buildings for re-occupancy – cleaning, inspection, testing emergency equipment
  • Training of cleaning teams and establishing a suitable cleaning regime
  • Arrangements to practice social distancing – classrooms, corridors, dining halls
  • Review movements around the school or college, stagger break times
  • Review curriculum tasks that may present health issues such as assemblies, sports games and events that involve gathering of crowds and touching
  • Procedures for separating sick children and staff from others
  • PPE for nurses and first aiders
  • Protocols for arrival and departure – consider staggering times
  • Provision of hygiene equipment for staff, pupils and visitors – soap and water, hand sanitizers in reception areas, classrooms, dining halls
  • Waste arrangements – closed bins for used tissues
  • Control of essential visitors on site

Communication

  • Ensure staff are trained to understand what you expect of them
  • Ensure pupils are informed of what is expected of them such as
    • Social distancing
    • Hand hygiene
    • Respiratory hygiene (covering a cough or sneeze and throwing away tissues in a closed bin)
    • No sharing of cups, eating utensils, food or drinks
    • Reiterate the bullying policy particularly where some children or their relatives have been sick
  • Ensure parents understand how you will be operating in the current environment and what you expect of them.
    • To monitor their child’s health and keep them at home if unwell or if any other member in the household is sick
    • Staggered entry and exit times to the school or college 
    • No gathering at entrance gates or doors, or enter the buildings without appointment
    • Keep the school or college informed of any pupils showing signs of anxiety
  • Poster campaign promoting hygiene practices and social distancing

Empathy

  • Many staff and pupils will be anxious about the return to work after such a significant period of lockdown. Consider ways to overcome the anxiety. Good clear communication, additional training and listening to concerns and addressing them will go a long way to calming people
  • Furnish staff, pupils and parents with facts and, where fictional rumours are running around, communicate promptly to dispel them

 

Liability Insurance

Naturally schools and colleges have questioned what the insurance implications may be with pupils and staff returning.  In the event that members of staff, pupils, parents or visitors to the school or college were to fall ill with Covid-19 and suggest that the school or college were responsible for their illness and seek to claim, your liability insurances will respond to defend the school or college's position and will meet claims that you become legally liable to pay for compensation.

In order for insurers to be in a position to defend the school or college there needs to be a document trail that shows you have complied with all guidance provided to minimise the risk of the spread of the disease.

Recording of actions

  • Keep records of the return to school plan noting any variations taken following implementation and why
  • Risk assessments recorded and reviewed again following implementation to ensure they reflect reality of actual situation
  • Keep records of training provided to staff and ensure they have understood this – a signature to confirm
  • Keep records of talks given to pupils
  • Keep records of cleaning regime – signed off on a daily basis that the cleaning has been completed

 

Further information 

Other websites that you may find useful to guide you in this transition process:

Cardinus Risk Management – Returning to work after lockdown
World Health Organisation Guidance to Schools
Hill Dickinson guide - how to support staff mental health and well being after lockdown 

 

Author

If you have any queries regarding the above, please get in touch with our education specialist, Mark Rose: 

07841 430 237 | m.rose@hayesparsons.co.uk 

 

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Tags: Covid-19, Covid-19 Education

Categories: Homepage Featured, Schools and Colleges

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