On Monday the 1st of June, many primary schools across the country reopened their doors in accordance with the updated lockdown rules announced by Boris Johnson on the 10th of May. After nine weeks of lockdown, this move has sparked controversy, and schools in England remain divided over whether or not to allow students to return to class.
According to the Guardian, many headteachers have expressed fear that it may still be too soon to reopen schools in England, with some teaching unions even calling the decision ‘reckless’. Despite this, many children have returned to school and Anne Longfield, the Children’s commissioner for England, has said that teachers across the country have “risen to the challenge”. Whether or not parents decide to send their children back to school this June, one thing is clear — schools must be prepared.
Discussing the reopening of schools, Gary Peeling, Chief Executive Officer at Where The Trade Buys, said: “Health and safety should be everyone’s top priority now that schools are reopening. Schools will require numerous health and safety products to ensure the safeguarding of their teachers and students. As people return to the classroom, careful measures must be taken in order to put the necessary protective equipment in place and enhance health and safety.”
Read on to discover ten 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, but with many classes up and running already, it’s essential to be prepared and maintain a high level of health and safety 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.