Monday, June 14

Children return to schools in England

LONDON: Children across Britain in reception, Years 1 and 6 have returned to schools, with many having been out of school for over 10 weeks due to Covid-19 lockdown.

The decision to reopen almost 18,000 of England’s primary schools starting with reception, year 1 and year 6 has been taken after the British government put in place extensive safety measures for teachers and pupils to return to schools in a safe and creative environment and after the scientific evidence suggested the transmission rate of coronavirus (COVID-19) has decreased.

The government has decided to re-open the schools in phases to ensure that the best possible measures are in place for everyone involved.

The government’s decision is guided by the scientific advice which says that there is high scientific confidence that “children of all ages have less severe symptoms than adults if they contract coronavirus and there is moderately high scientific confidence that younger children are less likely to become unwell if infected with coronavirus”.

It adds: “Limiting the numbers of children going back to school and college initially then gradually increasing numbers, guided by scientific advice, reduces risk of increasing the rate of transmission; schools and other settings can make changes to how they are organised and put measures in place to reduce risks.”

Several schools were never closed after the Covid-19 lockdown as children of key workers continued to attend schools throughout and school staff remained on duty to support the fight against Covid-19.

For government authorities, parents and school staff, it has been an essential task to reopen the schools because children belong to schools and nurseries – the places where they meet friends and teachers and the point of learning and growing with their peers.

According to government guidelines, the decision to open schools from 1st June for some age groups has been made keeping in view the fact that children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 are at important points in their education, learning the building blocks for reading and writing and transitioning to secondary school and therefore its most important for them to be in the school environment to continue their progress.

The government guidelines say that pupils in years 10 and 12 in secondary school, sixth form and college will start to have some face-to-face support to supplement their remote education as they prepare for public exams next year.

The Department for Education guidelines provide crucial help to schools and staff in understanding what measures should be put in place for the safety of children and staff. The guidelines recommend that classes are split in half with no more than 15 pupils per group but this will vary according the size and type of the teaching space.

Children will be encouraged by schools to wash their hands thoroughly before eating and to stay in their small groups for lunch and break times.

The govt’s decision to open schools gradually is linked with the latest scientific evidence and it enables schools to welcome children back and at the same time increase protective measures to reduce risks related to Covid-19.

The government guidelines expect highest standards of safety in school setting and expects the staff to apply their judgment how to keep children at a safe distance to ensure hygiene and safety as safety of children and staff is government’s utmost priority.

The government’s latest guidelines say that there are important actions that children and young people, their parents and those who work with them can take during the coronavirus outbreak, to help prevent the spread of the virus and to stay safe and healthy.

In all education, childcare and social care settings, preventing the spread of coronavirus involves dealing with direct transmission (for instance, when in close contact with those sneezing and coughing) and indirect transmission (via touching contaminated surfaces).

To deal with this, a range of approaches and actions have been suggested for implementation to reduce the risk of transmission of infection. These include: minimising contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, do not attend childcare settings, schools or colleges; cleaning hands more often than usual – wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with running water and soap and dry them thoroughly or use alcohol hand rub or sanitiser ensuring that all parts of the hands are covered; ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach; cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents and bleach; and minimising contact and mixing by altering, as much as possible, the environment (such as classroom layout) and timetables (such as staggered break times).

Face coverings have been suggested by the government for public transport and close social meetings but wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended.

The government guidelines say that changing habits, cleaning and hygiene are effective measures in controlling the spread of the virus and that face coverings should not be worn by those who may not be able to handle them as directed (for example, young children, or those with special educational needs or disabilities) as it may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission.

The government encourages minimum possible contact between people as much as possible to achieve the transmission risk reduction target by ensuring children, young people and staff where possible, only mix in a small, consistent group and that small group stays away from other people and groups.

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