How students and staff will stay safe from the coronavirus

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Late Friday night, the Education Department released 25,000 guidance words explaining how school children and staff should be protected when classes return.

Here are some of the key points every student, teacher and parent should know before the school doors open this week.

Two weeks, two weeks off

Every school must make plans to ensure children continue to receive an education even if they have to stay when a local lockdown has been imposed after an increase in coronavirus cases.

In what has been described as an “absolute last resort,” the guidelines define four levels of restrictions. In the first level, the schools remain open and everyone wears a face mask in the common areas. At the next level, reserved for secondary schools, a “rotation system” is introduced where children have two weeks at home to see if symptoms appear, then two weeks at school if everything is clear. A one-week internship – five days in class, nine days at home – is another possible option.

Levels three and four offer home study, with only the most vulnerable children or those of key workers allowed to attend classes.

Students would have access to online and offline materials and instructional videos related to the program.

Social distancing and “bubbles”

“Bubbles” will be created for young people to learn and mingle with their peers. Large assemblies or collective worship should not include more than one group. Break and lunch times can be shifted to separate the bubbles. Ensuring that these “distinct groups do not mix” makes it faster and easier to identify contacts if a positive coronavirus case occurs or if someone is showing symptoms.

The bubbles can be larger and become whole “annual bubbles” if the educational requirements so require. Shared books, games, and equipment can be used within this group, but must be cleaned up if they are then used by another bubble.

Older children will be encouraged to avoid close contact with each other, in part because the risks increase with age. Teachers are not limited to a single “bubble”, but are urged to stay at the front of any classroom to reduce contact. In class, students should sit side by side and face forward.

The use of the staff room by teachers is also supposed to be “minimized”.

Routine temperature testing of children is not encouraged after Public Health England finds the process to be an unreliable way of testing for disease.

If a student or teacher has symptoms or a positive diagnosis

Schools should immediately contact local health protection teams to locate those in close contact with the child. Students in a bubble, an age group, and very rarely the entire school might be asked to self-isolate. A mobile test unit could be sent to a campus.

NHS Test and Trace would be notified so that family and friends can be contacted and possibly isolated.

The student or teacher would be quarantined for 14 days and tested. If a child with symptoms is waiting to be picked up by a parent, they should be moved to a room for isolation, under adult supervision if necessary.

Teachers who help a child with symptoms should not self-isolate unless they develop symptoms themselves. However, they should wash their hands thoroughly and wear PPE when with the child. The area where a person suspected of having Covid-19 is located must then be cleaned intensively.

If a parent insists that a child with symptoms go to school, the head teacher can refuse to pick up the student if he believes there is a threat to others.

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