UK Government publishes safety rules and guidelines for school resumption in September

UK Government publishes safety rules and guidelines for school resumption in September

The UK Government has published the safety rules and guidelines for school resumption in September.The guidance sets out how schools will operate with all pupils back full time. This will be with an expansion of the "protective bubble" system already used in schools and minimal contact between groups. It will based on separating groups and minimising contacts, rather than social distancing, with the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson saying earlier this week: "It's not about one metre, it's not about two metres."

The UK Government has published the safety rules and guidelines for school resumption in September.The guidance sets out how schools will operate with all pupils back full time. This will be with an expansion of the "protective bubble" system already used in schools and minimal contact between groups. It will based on separating groups and minimising contacts, rather than social distancing, with the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson saying earlier this week: "It's not about one metre, it's not about two metres."

Schools will have testing kits to give to parents if children show symptoms. Mobile testing units will be sent to schools which have an outbreak. The safety plans issued by the Department for Education say that "given the improved position, the balance of risk is now overwhelmingly in favour of children returning to school".
The new rules for autumn will mean:

  • grouping children together in groups or "bubbles"
  • in primary this will be a class, in secondary a year group
  • avoiding contact between these groups during the school day
  • separate starting, finishing, lunch and break times
  • attendance compulsory with the threat of penalty fines
  • regular cleaning of hands
  • those with symptoms told to stay out of school
  • no big group events like school assemblies
  • arranging classrooms with forward facing desks
  • separate groups on school buses
  • discouraging the use of public transport
  • masks not expected for pupils or staff.

All schools will have to draw up plans for the possibility of local lockdowns. If there are two confirmed coronavirus cases in 14 days, all the pupils in that group, or even the whole school, may have to be sent home.

And parents in England who do not send their children back to school in September will face fines "unless there's a good reason for absence".
"Everybody wants children to be safe and thankfully as we have learned more about Covid-19, the evidence has shown that the risk of severe disease in children is low," said Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jenny Harries.
But Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said the government had been "asleep at the wheel" on the return to school and called for a "cross-party taskforce" to take over.
  • What Happens If There Is An Infection Or Pupils With Symptoms?

If a child in school has Covid symptoms they will have to be taken home straight away, and staff waiting with them will have to wear protective equipment.
All schools are being promised testing kits to give to parents - and if there are two confirmed cases within 14 days, or a rise in absences because of Covid-like symptoms, this could be counted as an outbreak.
This could mean other pupils in the class or the year group being sent home. It could escalate to the whole school site being shut down - but the guidance says such whole-school closures "will not generally be necessary".
A mobile testing unit could be sent to a school with an outbreak, which could carry out tests to see whether an infection had spread, which could check a class, a year group or the whole school.
In the event of a local outbreak, health protection teams or local authorities may advise schools to close.
  • What Are Schools Saying About The Plans?
"The logistics of keeping apart many different "bubbles" of children in a full school is mind-boggling," said Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union.
"There just needs to be a sense of reality about what is possible," he said - and called on the government to have a "Plan B" if the return proved unworkable.
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  • Head teachers have also voiced concerns about penalty fines being issued to parents if they do not send their children back to school.
Michael Ferry from St Wilfrid's Secondary School in Crawley, West Sussex, called the threat of fines "ludicrous" and said that he will not issue them "in any shape or form".
He also warned that the school "cannot be full" on any given day, if pupils and teachers face any level of social distancing.
However, Ashley Harrold, head of secondary school Blatchington Mill School in Brighton, said schools could "overcome" challenges around capacity - although there were still "legitimate questions around safety".

His school had drafted four plans designed to bring all pupils back without shrinking the curriculum.
  • How Have Parents Reacted?
"I am a parent, and will not be sending my child back to school, if it is not safe to do so," Anthony told the BBC, when draft plans were revealed this week. But Kirsty said: "Everything has got to start to go back to some sort of normal sooner or later. It's worrying but I think children need the stability of school and the social aspect of seeing their friends."