Preparing Your School To Return From The Covid-19 Pandemic
With schools now preparing to return from the Covid-19 pandemic; we have put together the following information to assist with these preparations.
This guidance is correct as of 19 May 2020 however is being updated daily.
Key Action List
Children and Parents
Identify likely numbers of pupils returning and agree required staffing resource and approach and liaise with your local authority on your plans.
In special schools, specialist post-16 and hospital schools only, agree which additional pupils will return irrespective of year groups to achieve a phased return.
Plan content and timing of communications to parents and pupils (including discussing attendance expectations and other specific things that parents should do to help prepare returning pupils, for example, arrangements for drop-off/collection).
Plan to resume taking attendance registers and continuing to complete the online educational setting status form to provide daily updates on how many children and staff are in school.
Plan how children of critical workers and vulnerable children will be accommodated alongside returning year groups and encourage attendance (unless they are extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding, or medical advice or further guidance suggests they should not attend).
Agree what returning support is available for vulnerable and/or disadvantaged children (including any dual-registered students) and put in place provision for the return of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in conjunction with families and other agencies and engage with partners who will help to provide that support, for example, local authorities.
Agree what safeguarding provision is needed in school to support returning children (e.g. where new issues have arisen, or existing ones escalated) and consider any necessary changes and referrals as more children return to school, including those with problems accessing online offers. Check for revised protocols from your local authority and update safeguarding policy if necessary.
Update behaviour policies to reflect the new rules and routines necessary to reduce risk in your setting and agree how to communicate this to school staff, students and parents and review uniform expectations.
Work with your catering supplier to ensure meals are available for all children in school. Also, consider your arrangements for those year groups still out of school and eligible for benefits related free school meals.
Agree whether breakfast clubs, lunch clubs and after-school clubs can operate (in line with the implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings guidance), and under what terms.
Staff (teachers, support staff and non-teaching staff)
Decide content and timing of staff communication(s) including if bringing staff in in advance of pupils returning is necessary.
Consider options if necessary staffing levels can’t be maintained (including school leaders and key staff like designated safeguarding leads and first aid providers).
Identify staff who can’t return to school at this point (for example, those who are extremely clinically vulnerable or those who are clinically vulnerable or living with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable and stringent social distancing cannot be adhered to on site) and how they can work from home (for example, supporting remote education).
Agree any flexible working arrangements needed to support any changes to your usual patterns (for example, staggered start/end times).
Agree staff workload expectations (including for leaders).
Decide what staff training (either delivered remotely or in school) is needed to implement any changes the school plans to make (for example, risk management, curriculum, behaviour, safeguarding).
Put in place measures to check on staff wellbeing (including for leaders).
Protective Measures and Hygiene
Read the guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings and agree how this will be implemented in your school, including agreeing on any necessary updated health and safety policy and risk assessments.
Decide the physical and organisational structures needed to limit risks and limit movement around the building(s) (for example, classroom layouts, entry and exit points, staggered starts and break times, class sizes, lunch queues, use of communal staff areas). Agree how safety measures and messages will be implemented and displayed around school.
Decide what an enhanced cleaning schedule looks like and how it will be implemented in your school (for example, how often, when/if an additional clean is necessary) and how you will ensure sufficiency of supplies.
Decide the approach to enhance hygiene (for example, toilet use, hand washing) and decide on policy related to usually shared items (for example, books, toys, practical equipment).
Plan the school level response should someone fall ill on site (in line with relevant government guidance).
Make arrangements for the very small number of cases where personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies will be needed: if your staff provide intimate care for any children or young people and for cases where a child becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and needs direct personal care until they can return home.
Plan likely mental health, pastoral or wider wellbeing support for children returning to school (for example, bereavement support) and discuss with your local authority what wider support services are available. Work with your local authority to secure services for additional support and early help where possible (for example, around anxiety, mental health, behaviour, social care, or changes to mobility), and consider how these might apply to pupils and students who were not previously affected.
Agree what learning is appropriate (including the relationship between face-to-face and remote education), for example, identify curriculum priorities, agree revised expectations and required adjustments in practical lessons, and any approaches to ‘catch up’ support.
Work with your local authority or trust (and where applicable NHS Clinical Commissioning Group) and families to identify what provision can be reasonably provided for in line with education, health and care (EHC) plans.
Agree ongoing learning offer for eligible pupils who can’t attend school, as well as offer for those that continue to be out of school.
Agree ongoing approach for learning offer for vulnerable children and children of critical workers who are in school but not in the returning year groups.
Work with other school based-provision as necessary (for example, nursery, SEN unit) to ensure policies are aligned where they need to be.
Agree approach to any scheduled or ongoing building works.
Plan arrangements with your suppliers and check they are following appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures (for example, food suppliers, grounds maintenance, transport providers), including when in school.
Ensure you have considered the impact on staff and pupils with protected characteristics, including race and disability, in developing your approach.
Schools and trusts have been asked to prepare for schools re-opening on the 1st June 2020 for some year groups, ahead of confirmation that the five key tests have been met and it is safe to open. There has been an unprecedented amount of information and guidance released by the government and the DfE. We have tried to summarise this for you as follows, including our legal comments where necessary. If you have any queries or concerns then please do not hesitate to contact us.
All schools should conduct a fire drill in the first week back – fire safety in new and existing school buildings.
You will also need to ensure that you have at least one member of staff with paediatric first aid training and DSL training in school each day.
The government understands that social distancing is not always possible with younger children. Therefore the DfE have confirmed that you should work through the hierarchy of measures set out in implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings as follows:
- avoiding contact with anyone with symptoms
- frequent hand cleaning and good respiratory hygiene practices
- regular cleaning of settings
- minimising contact and mixing
General compliance with the statutory social distancing measure is still important and contact should be reduced where possible by having young children mix in only small, consistent groups, with each group staying apart from other groups.
Primary school groups should be split in half, with no more than 15 pupils per group and one teacher (plus a teaching assistant if necessary).
Vulnerable children and children of critical workers in other year groups should also be split into small groups of no more than 15. Desks should be spaced out as far apart as possible.
Drop-off and collection times should be suitably staggered to reduce the number of parents on the school premises at any one time. Signage should be used to encourage social distancing, and you should communicate with parents in advance to ensure they understand the new rules.
You will also need to ensure that break times and lunch times are staggered, and children only eat lunch with those in their own groups.
If any safeguarding issues arise, they should be dealt with in accordance with the school or trust’s Safeguarding Policy.
The DfE guidance regarding implementing protective measures states that it is not necessary for staff to wear masks, gloves and aprons unless they are carrying out activities that would usually require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) or if a child, young person or other learner becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and need supervision until they can return home. You should use your local supply chains to obtain PPE. Where this is not possible, and there is an unmet urgent need for PPE in order to operate safely, you may approach your nearest local resilience forum.
Staff and pupils in all settings will be eligible for testing if they become ill with coronavirus symptoms, as will members of their households. Those who are clinically vulnerable, or are living with someone who is, should follow the protective measures guidance.
The DfE have provided guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings.
Children should not be sharing resources until they have been cleaned thoroughly.
The DfE have advised that schools should display these posters around their premises:
The DfE have suggested that schools equip themselves with the following:
- posters (for example, to encourage consistency on hygiene and keeping to own group)
- soap for sinks, and where there is no sink nearby, hand sanitiser in rooms/learning environments
- disposable paper towels
- cleaning products
- sanitising wipes for wiping some equipment
- lidded bins
- tape for cordoning off areas and marking floors
You should review your current staffing availability for the week commencing 1st June. If you have any clinically extremely vulnerable individuals, remember that they are advised not to work outside of their home. It is reasonable to request proof of an employee being classed as clinically extremely vulnerable if you have any doubts.
Clinically vulnerable individuals are those staff who are at higher risk of severe illness (those with the conditions set out in the staying at home and away from others (social distancing) guidance). These members of staff should take extra care in observing social distancing and should work from home where possible. You should endeavor to support this, for example by asking those staff to support remote education, carry out lesson planning or in other roles which can be done from home. If working from home is not possible, you should offer these staff the safest available on-site roles, maintaining a 2-meter distance from others, unless the individual chooses to take on a role that does not allow for this. You must assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.
If you have any members of staff who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable ( see guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable) it is advised that they only attend work if stringent social distancing can be adhered to. If it cannot then you should not be asking those members of staff to attend school.
Any members of staff who live with someone who is clinically vulnerable can attend work as per all other members of staff.
You can ask staff to inform you immediately if their situation changes. You can also ask staff members if they are prepared to undertake different roles temporarily, providing you do not enforce a reduction in pay or hours.
If you have to use staff from another school, or supply staff, then this should be done on a weekly basis, not daily, to minimise the contact with different people.
You should avoid opening the school if you do not have a head or deputy, at least one person with paediatric first aid training, at least one person with DSL training, access to advice from a SENDCo and a caretaker and/or cleaning staff in school each day.
It is to be expected that some staff will be worried about coming into school, even if the risks for them are very low. You will know your staff best and so will be in the best position to work out how to proceed in individual cases. If you are facing an issue with staff refusing to attend school, then please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss individual cases.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough Pay/Leave) can continue to be used for staff typically paid for through private income, on condition that the principles in the DfE’s sector specific guidance continue to be met.
The government’s stance on attendance has changed very slightly. Previously, it was advised that children of key workers should only attend school if there is no-one available to look after them at home. The advice has now changed so that children of key workers are actively encouraged to attend school. Only one parent need be a key worker to render a child eligible for schooling at present.
If someone in the same household as a child or young person is extremely clinically vulnerable, the child should only attend school if stringent social distancing can be adhered to, and the child is able to understand and follow those instructions. No-one with symptoms should attend a setting for any reason.
The DfE has advised that you should assume that all eligible children will attend for the purposes of planning, even if you think that this is unlikely. This includes ensuring that you follow the attendance expectations for vulnerable children guidance. You should determine your half-class groups taking into account any limitations of your school buildings and outside space.
Any vulnerable children or children of critical workers who are in reception, year 1 or year 6 should in included within their year group from 1st June.
Secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges are being asked to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of year 10 and year 12 students who are due to take key examinations next year, alongside the full-time provision that they are offering to priority groups.
Special schools should be working towards a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups.
You should not permit any year groups other than those listed above to attend school. (Other than vulnerable children and those of key workers).
Should parents or carers decide that they do not feel comfortable with their children attending school, they will not face fines or other sanctions. Your school will also not be held to account for attendance figures during the Coronavirus outbreak. The DfE does encourage schools to regularly contact parents who decide not to send their children in.
You should continue to inform social workers where children assigned to them do not attend school.
Remember that qualified teachers are qualified to teach any primary year group, including EYFS.
If you have a shortage of teachers then you can use a teaching assistant to lead a group, working under the direction of another teacher.
If you do not have the staff available to be able to cover all of the new teaching groups you have created, you will need to consider possible solutions with your local authority and/or trust. You can use supply teachers and teachers on loan from other schools, trying to maintain consistency as much as possible to reduce the risks. You can also use members of SLT providing there is sufficient leadership time remaining.
If you still cannot find enough cover to enable all eligible children to attend, or cover cannot be provided consistently at another local school then you should focus first on continuing to provide places for priority groups.
Year groups should then be prioritised from the youngest to the oldest. Rota systems should not be used; children should be offered schooling consistently.
You will need to continue completing the daily data returns using the DfE portal.
Schools are temporarily not obligated to offer a broad and balanced curriculum to pupils. No examinations or assessments will take place this term and Ofsted have paused all routine inspections.
You should consider establishing new, temporary school rules. If you do make any temporary updates to your behaviour policy, don’t forget to communicate these changes to staff, pupils and parents. Staff will need to explicitly teach and supervise health and hygiene arrangements.
Youth Sport Trust have provided some non-touch sports resources for use in schools.
Taking books home – the exchange and number of shared resources taken home by both pupils and staff should be limited. Hands and surfaces should be cleaned before and after handling books.
Uniform – Normal washing of clothes will suffice following a day in school. Uniform that cannot be machine washed should be avoided. You should show leeway for any child who has grown out of any parts of their uniform since March.
Drop off and pick-up routines – Communication with parents is essential. You should determine a queuing system and a process for staff to greet each child, ensure they wash their hands immediately on arrival and then go straight to their classroom. Parents need to be informed that they cannot gather at the school gates.
Visitors – external visitors during school hours should be limited. Parents should only be entering the school premises is strictly necessary.
EYFS requirements have been amended by temporary legislation, providing flexibility to schools to respond to changes in workforce availability and potential fluctuations in demand. This legislation came into force on 24th April 2020 and can be found here – EYFS learning and development requirements.
Year 1 – where possible, schools should ascertain where children have fallen behind or have progressed further against the school’s existing reading curriculum. Where there are small numbers significantly behind others then ensure they receive support as intensively as can be managed to catch up and liaise where possible with parents and carers to ensure they can support too.
Year 6 – it is unlikely than many of the end of term traditions will be able to take place, for example, whole year or class assemblies and school trips. Schools should provide opportunities for children to discuss this as It may be a source of anxiety. Though visits to secondary schools for induction will not take place this year, some secondary schools may have capacity to undertake remote induction briefings or other types of sessions for pupils, for example to meet form tutors, heads of year or other key staff, or have a virtual tour of the school. You should discuss these options with the secondary schools. Teaching during this time should focus on readiness for secondary school, including academic readiness, with a particular focus on mathematics and English.
You should ensure that information is transferred to destination secondary schools as soon as possible, and if practical in the absence of SATs results ensure that secondary schools are briefed in as much detail as possible about the attainment profile of transferring pupils, along with other information normally transferred.
As part of the introduction of the new health education during 2020-2021 the DfE will be producing some training materials for teachers on teaching about mental health and wellbeing.
If you normally provide breakfast and after-school clubs as part of ‘wrap-around’ provision, you are not required to continue with these. You should only run such provision if you are able to keep children within the groups that they are in during the school day, or they are safely distanced.
Meals should be provided for all children in school, and meals should be available free of charge where pupils meet the free school meal eligibility criteria. Educational settings are expected to reopen their kitchens and ensure that meals are able to be prepared and served safely. Meals or food parcels should be provided for benefits-related FSM pupils not in school. Food vouchers will continue to be available where needed.
The fund for schools to cover specific additional costs as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak remains open and should be used by schools as appropriate.
You will need to communicate with parents to ensure they know:
- Whether their children will be able to attend from the week commencing 1st June
- What protective steps you are taking to make the school a low-risk place for their child
- What you need them to do (such as on drop off and collection)
Clear communicate in advance and clear signage should be displayed regarding social distancing however you have no responsibility for the actions of parents or children outside of school grounds.
You should be prepared to be flexible in the interests of social distancing. For example, if you have a parent with children in two separate, eligible year groups, you should contact them and agree joint start and finish time for both children, rather than enforcing the staggered start and finish times with the rest of the year group.
Now that primary schools will be opening more widely, larger numbers of staff will be needed to provide face-to-face teaching at school, making it more difficult to maintain the same level of remote education provision for pupils in the year groups that are not eligible to attend, or for those pupils in year groups who are eligible to attend but who cannot.
The DfE encourages the use of Oak National Academy in these circumstances.
Where pupils do not have access to online resources, you should consider whether it is possible to provide printed resources.
The DfE’s guidance on remote education during the coronavirus outbreak can be found here.
Throughout each stage of this process, it is important to consult members of staff and governors to gain their involvement and support. You should keep your appropriate authority (governing body, trust board or local authority) informed of arrangements being made and key strategic decisions should be taken by them.