General News

Is it safe for children and teachers to be back to normal in schools?

According to the Government's scientific group Sage the risk of coronavirus to pupils in the classroom is "very, very small, but not zero” and Sage have published documents about the safety and impact of reopening English schools,

which state that teachers would not be at above-average risk compared with other occupations.

It is the view of the Government that the necessary five tests for easing the lockdown in England have been met however, teachers' unions have warned it is not safe to allow more children into primary schools and the Government have now dropped plans to get all primary pupils in England back for four weeks before the summer holidays.

Currently, in England some nursery and pre-school children - plus pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 started to go back on the 6th June, however not all schools have reopened, some due to local council advice and some because they don't have the staff or space to safely accommodate eligible pupils. In addition to this, some parents have chosen not to send their children back to school. On 4 June, 659,000 children in England or 6.9% of children are estimated to have been in classes.

There is no doubt that there is a very difficult balance to be stuck in trying to ensure the continuity of children’s education, without short or long term detriment, whilst trying to ensure and maintain the health and safety of both children and staff.  The responsibility for doing so has fallen and weighs heavily upon the shoulders of the schools teaching and support staff who are moving mountains to ensure that in these difficult times education is provided and a safe environment for all.

In order to ensure the safety of children and staff schools are busy implementing a range of measures, which everyone will now be very familiar with and which have presented the need for military logistical planing by school staff. The Government have also produced guidance for children with special educational needs or a disability. Measures being routinely adopted are:

  • Keeping classroom doors and windows open to encourage airflow;
  • Introducing one-way systems around school buildings;
  • Having no more than 15 children per classroom;
  • Pupils being asked to stay 2m (6ft 6in) apart where possible;
  • More regular hand washing;
  • Staggered break and lunchtimes, plus different arrival and departure arrangements;
  • Less sharing of equipment such as books and toys;
  • Parents should not gather at school gates or in the playground;
  • Carers only entering school buildings by prior appointment; and
  • Consistent clear messages to the school community of children, their carers and school staff that if any pupils or staff, or anyone they live with, develop coronavirus symptoms, they will be asked to stay away from school.

None of these measures is simple or easy to implement in a school environment, particularly where there are young children within a school, and the debate upon whether children should go back to school and whether the right balance has been struck is heated. There are many differing views and a lot of argument and debate but what I have no doubt about is that I have seen a heroic and tireless dedication and commitment by school staff to ensure that, throughout this current crisis, children are educated in environments that are safe for them to be taught and to learn in.