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Covid-19 – What does the phased wider opening mean for your school or academy trust?

13 May 2020

We summarise here the key elements of the phased wider opening of schools from 1 June 2020, announced by the Government on 11 May 2020.

On 11 May 2020, the Government published Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government's COVID-19 recovery strategy, while the Department for Education (DfE) published Actions for education and childcare settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020, Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings and Opening schools and educational settings to more pupils from 1 June: guidance for parents and carers, accompanied by a press release. While these documents lack the detail that schools and academy trusts had expected, they nonetheless set the framework for Government policy which the DfE will expand upon in due course. Schools and academy trusts should therefore note the key elements as follows.

From week commencing 1 June 2020

  • Nurseries and early years settings are to open to all children.
  • Primary schools are to welcome back children to nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 (including in middle schools). The aim is for other primary years to return later in June but this will be kept under review
  • Secondary schools are to offer some face-to-face support for pupils in years 10 and 12 (not on a full-time basis) to supplement their remote education. There are currently no plans to re-open secondary schools for other year groups before the summer holidays.
  • Alternative provision settings are to mirror the approach for mainstream schools and offer some face-to-face support for years 10 and 11. They may need to undertake a risk assessment if a pupil may be unable to follow instructions to determine if they can be taught in school or should be at home.
  • Special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools are to welcome back more pupils and students. They may want to prioritise attendance based on key transitions and other factors, informed by risk assessments and dialogue with local authorities and families, and consider part-time attendance rotas.

Schools are asked to plan on this basis ahead of scientific advice confirming whether the phased wider opening will proceed.

Yes. Schools should carry out a risk assessment which directly addresses risks associated with coronavirus. Staff must be consulted on health and safety matters.

-Children in the categories above where there are no shielding concerns for the child or their household.

-Vulnerable children (defined in our FAQs) as appropriate (informed by a risk assessment for those with EHCPs).

-Children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response or work in a critical sector, as defined in our FAQs (i.e. key workers).

It is no longer necessary for parents of vulnerable child and for key workers to keep their child at home, if they can.

There will be no penalty for those who do not send their child to school. However, they will be strongly encouraged to do so unless their child or a family member is shielding or the child is particularly vulnerable due to an underlying condition in which case they should be supported to learn from home.

If a child lives with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, they are advised to attend school if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and they can understand and follow these instructions.

If a child lives with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable), including those who are pregnant, they can attend school.

Yes. Schools should resume taking their attendance register and complete the online Educational Setting Status form.

Yes. Schools should provide meals for all pupils in school (including for those eligible for free school meals) and are expected to re-open their kitchens and ensure meals are able to be prepared and served safely.

Schools are asked to work with their food providers to offer meals or food parcels for pupils entitled to free school meals who are not in school. Food vouchers for those eligible for free school meals will be available where needed.

No. If a member of staff is clinically vulnerable, they should work from home where possible. Otherwise, they should be offered the safest available on-site roles which maintain social distancing. However, they may choose to take an alternate role in which case the school must assess and discuss with them whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.

If a member of staff lives with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, they are advised to attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to. Otherwise, they should be supported to work from home. If they live with someone who is clinically vulnerable, including someone who is pregnant, they can attend.

Governing bodies/boards and senior leaders should implement flexible working practices to promote good work-life balance and support teachers and leaders. They will want to factor this into their resource and curriculum planning and consider where additional resource may be required.

No.

They should be sent home and advised to self isolate for 7 days. Their household should self-isolate for 14 days.

While a pupil is waiting to be collected from school, they should be isolated in a room (with appropriate adult supervision and ideally an open window for ventilation) or at least 2 metres from others. If they use the bathroom, they should use a separate bathroom which should be cleaned and disinfected after use. Staff caring for the pupil should wear PPE if they cannot maintain a 2 metre distance (e.g. for a pupil with complex needs). They do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves or the pupil tests positive.

Yes. All pupils and staff (and their household) will have access to a test if they display coronavirus symptoms and are encouraged to get tested in this scenario.

Public Health England will advise on the course of action. Those who have mixed closely with the pupil or member of staff should be sent home to self-isolate for 14 days. Members of their household do not need to self-isolate unless the pupil or staff member develops symptoms.

No. Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools is not recommended. Face coverings, where there is a risk of close social contact, does not apply to schools. Schools should not require pupils or staff to wear face coverings.

No. Most staff will not require PPE even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres from others. PPE is only needed for pupils whose care already routinely involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs and if a pupil becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus.

Schools should

-ensure sufficient handwashing facilities are available and, where a sink is not nearby, provide hand sanitiser,

-clean surfaces and equipment that children are touching,

-ensure everyone cleans their hands on arrival, before and after eating and after sneezing and coughing,

-ensure everyone uses a tissue or elbow to cough or sneeze and uses bins for tissue waste,

-ensure bins for tissues are emptied throughout the day,

-where possible, ensure all spaces are well-ventilated,

-prop doors open, where safe to do so, to limit use of door handles and aid ventilation,

-remove unnecessary items or items that are hard to clean from the classroom,

-refresh the timetable to decide which lessons will be delivered and reduce movement,

-as appropriate, consider the maximum number of pupils they can safely house in their residential accommodation,

-increase the frequency of cleaning, with a thorough clean of rooms at the end of the day and

-reduce the use of shared items.

EYFS staff to child ratios will continue to apply. Where the physical layout does not allow small groups to be kept apart at a safe distance, nurseries and early years providers are to exercise judgement to ensure the highest standards of safety are maintained. In some cases, a temporary cap on numbers may be necessary to ensure safety is prioritised.

Elsewhere, classes should be halved (for primary schools, there should be no more than 15 pupils  in each group (each 2 metres apart) and one teacher (and, if needed, a teaching assistant)). Wherever possible, pupils need to stay within their new class/group (and not mix with others) and use the same classroom. As far as possible, the same staff are to be assigned to each group.

Brief transitory contact, such as passing in a corridor, is low risk and schools are asked to consider one-way circulation or divide corridors in two for two-way movement around school.

Meanwhile, start/end times, breaks, lunch and assemblies should be staggered, as should use of staff rooms and offices.

Where possible, outdoor space should be used for education and rooms should be accessed directly from outside.

The number of pupils using the toilets at any one time should also be limited while halls, dining rooms and sports facilities should be used at half capacity.

Schools are advised to reduce any unnecessary travel where possible and minimise use of public transport, especially at peak times. They are also to ensure their school transport provider caters for any changes to school start and end times and, as far as possible, follows hygiene and social distancing rules.

This includes ensuring anyone employed or engaged by a school transport provider does not work if they or a member of their household displays symptoms. Of course, these measures may not be possible. Local authorities are asked to consider substituting small vehicles with larger ones or running two vehicles rather than one and cordoning off seats and eliminating face-to-face seating.

This will inevitably result in increased costs for schools and possibly pupils depending on how the transport is funded. Meanwhile, schools are to take appropriate action to reduce risks if hygiene rules and social distancing are not possible, for example when transporting children with complex needs. Schools, academy trusts and local authorities should work together to implement arrangements which fit local circumstances.

It is fair to say that the Government and DfE publications published on 11 May 2020 relating to the phased wider opening of schools from 1 June 2020 lack the level of detail that schools and academy trusts had been expecting and do not necessarily reflect the reality of school life. However, the guidance sets the framework for Government policy which the DfE says it will expand upon in due course. Schools and academy trusts should therefore note the key elements and continue to engage with the DfE to inform the detail of the further guidance that will follow.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Graham Shaw on 0113 244 6100.

You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys Education Team on Twitter.

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors LLP.

Graham Shaw View Biography

Graham Shaw

Consultant
Leeds

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