Life after lockdown can be a strange time for everyone.
As the government roll out a phased return back to education in England, this can be an anxious time for both parents and children. With practices such as washing hands and social distancing becoming the new ‘normal’, schools will also look very different to how we once knew them.
So how will safeguarding continue into the school environment, and how will children be protected during a coronavirus age?
If your child has been invited back to school and you have concerns, it’s important to understand exactly what safety measures are in place at your school. While government safeguarding guidelines have to be met, each school will be different and will provide in different ways. Parents should receive a telephone call from their school to explain the transition of their child’s return. However, it is entirely up to parents whether they are happy to send their children back or continue with homeschooling until September.
Before deciding, here are five key questions you might like to ask your school to help put your mind at ease.
School Run Safety
How will I drop off and collect my child from school?
Gone are the days of the busy school run and navigating around hoards of parents. Most schools have put in place staggered drop-off and collection times to avoid large numbers waiting at the gates. Your school may already have marked off drop-off and collection points for parents and carers who will need to remain outside the building. Before entering and leaving school, children will have to line up, ideally observing a 2-metre distance.
Class Entry Rules
What will my child need to do before going into the classroom?
A lot of safeguarding measures have been put in place and each school will differ in approach. Generally, each child and member of staff will have their temperature checked on arrival. Schools will require children to wash their hands thoroughly before entering and leaving the classroom, with hand sanitisers available.
Many schools have asked children not to bring anything from home such as a pencil case, school bag or any toys to reduce transmission. Narrow corridors to get to and from classrooms may be marked with tape/arrows on the floor, to create a one-way system and help maintain social distancing.
New Classroom Style
How will my child be safe in class?
To meet government guidelines, the classroom will see one of the biggest transformations. There is a limit of up to 15 students per class to ensure social distancing, and most schools have a shift system so that classes only attend on certain days. The usually clustered desks will now be separated to be 2-metres apart from each other and the teacher, to maintain a ‘protective’ bubble. Children will not be allowed to share pencil pots, glue sticks or other stationery, and will have their own zipped plastic stationery wallet labelled with their names. Also, classrooms are not allowed to have any soft furnishings or cosy reading nooks.
Lunch And Outdoor Fun
How will my child play outdoor activities during lunchtimes?
Playtimes are usually the highlight of the school day, so how will all that change? Following the government advice, lunches and playtimes will have staggered times to maintain the social distancing ‘bubbles’. Children are required to eat a packed lunch or school dinner at their desks to avoid a congested hall. Small groups are allowed to play outdoors in a designated part of the playground. And children can play with select equipment such as a ball or a hoop which will get disinfected straight after use. Playdough, sandpits or any water games will be banned to prevent the spread of transmission. A plus side is there will be more outdoor space to run around freely.
How Clean Is Your Classroom?
What are the school’s Covid-19 cleaning and hygiene measures?
Safeguarding focuses heavily on deep cleaning practices and high levels of hygiene. It’s important to ask what measures your school has taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 transmission. Schools are expected to clean the classrooms regularly, thoroughly wiping surfaces and all equipment, and a full deep clean overnight. While children are expected to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds throughout the day, they will also be encouraged to use hand sanitiser and stick to social distancing measures. They are also taught good respiratory hygiene by sneezing/coughing inside the elbow, and promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach.
Banish 'Back To School Blues': Additional Questions To Ask Your Child’s Teacher
My child has pre-existing medical conditions and advised to shield. Do we still need to return to school?
No, your child will not be required to return to school if they needs shielding. You can continue with home learning using relevant learning resources.
Are children eligible for Covid-19 testing?
Yes. If your child displays symptoms of Covid-19, parents will be able to arrange a test. Visit the government website for more guidance on how to access this service.
Will my child be required to wear a face mask in school?
Children will not be asked to wear a face covering in the school environment. However, if your child/children travel to school by public transport, face masks are mandatory.
What will happen if there is a confirmed case of Covid-19 in my child’s class?
In the case of a student or member of staff testing positive for Covid-19, the rest of their class or group are advised to self-isolate at home for 14 days. They should also arrange to have a test to find out whether they too have a positive result. Members of the same household do not have to self-isolate unless the child displays symptoms of Covid-19.
If you have any further concerns or questions, remember to check the government guidelines for updates online.
Cynthia Lawrence is a freelance lifestyle journalist for national magazines. She lives in London with her 9-year-old son and hubby, and also has an unhealthy obsession for homes and interiors. She loves taking inspiration from her fabulous family travels and exciting adventures.