There has been much debate surrounding school openings and when it will be appropriate to allow young people to get back to their classrooms. According to the Guardian, headteachers are expressing fear that it may still be too soon to reopen schools in England.
After Boris Johnson’s update on the 10th of May, some primary school pupils are returning to school from the beginning of June. Other than for these primary school students in England, UK schools will not be opened fully until around Autumn. As it stands, we cannot say for sure when schools will be open again, but one thing we do know is that schools need to be prepared.
Discussing the potential of children going back to school, Gary Peeling, Chief Executive Officer at Where The Trade Buys, said: “Health and safety should be everyone’s top priority. After the announcement that some primary schools will reopen in June, schools will require numerous health and safety products to ensure the safeguarding of their teachers and students. Before doors can reopen, careful planning will be needed in order to put the necessary protective equipment in place and enhance health and safety measures.”
Read on to discover eight ways in which you can encourage the safe return of students and teachers to your school.
1. Monitor government guidelines closely
Firstly, it is essential that you stay up to date with any recent information that the government is putting out. This way, you’ll know well in advance when to start preparing for your school to reopen. This will mean that you’ll have plenty of time to implement all of the following measures.
2. Use social distancing floor stickers
It’s certainly going to be difficult to implement social distancing within a busy school but take advantage of all the resources out there and give your students and staff as much guidance as possible. Social distancing floor stickers are a great way of helping people adhere to the two-metre rule.
3. Avoid assemblies
Although it’ll be tempting to get the whole school together again, this is not advisable. Instead of big assemblies, pass on important messages via year group so that there are never too many people gathered in one space.
4. Stagger opening times
It is also advisable to stagger opening times if possible. This way, you won’t get a big influx of students piling through the doors all at once. Consider staggering opening times by year group, so that there’s as little contact between students of different ages as there needs to be.
5. Provide hand sanitisers and other cleanliness reminders
It’s your duty to ensure that hygiene and cleanliness are at the forefront of both your students and your teachers’ minds, so make sure you stock up on hand sanitisers, hand washing posters, soap, and other health and safety measures.
6. Make sure you’ve done a deep clean before you reopen
Before you even consider opening the doors to hordes of students, make sure the school is sparkling. It’s certainly going to be a challenge to maintain the necessary cleanliness and hygiene levels, so put yourself in good stead from the get-go.
7. Shield vulnerable staff and pupils
Although we are all experiencing the turbulent effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, some are more at risk than others. Take time to understand the needs of every individual student and shield them accordingly. Even students who aren’t directly ‘high risk’ might be living in the same household as vulnerable people, so make sure you know who needs extra protection. Allow vulnerable students to learn from home or help them practice strict social distancing in school.
8. Offer mental health support to students and teachers
This period will have been seriously challenging for young people; therefore, your students will need more mental health support than ever. One study, which monitored the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak on young people’s mental health, revealed that 32 per cent described their mental health as ‘much worse’, during the pandemic, while 51 per cent described their mental health to be a bit worse. It is always important to make sure both your students and teachers have access to mental health services, but now is the time to really enhance that level of support.
Reopening your school may seem like a daunting prospect right now, and we don’t know for sure when it might happen. However, it’s important that you start planning early and make sure to create a safe and supportive space for both staff and students.
This article was researched by UK print company Where The Trade Buys, currently producing PPE for UK workplaces, education spaces, shops, the NHS and more. The company has also been involved in manufacturing face visors for NHS essential workers in the fight against Covid-19.