Is it safe for my kids to go back to school?

As August draws to a close and September nears, the start of the traditional school year fast approaches. PM Boris Johnson has made it clear that the government wants to see the reopening of schools and the returning of students to the classroom. However, given the continued prevalence of COVID-19, many parents and carers up and down the country find themselves asking ‘Is it actually safe for my kids to go back to school?’ 

The government’s answer is yes. Or at least the risk of not sending children back to school poses a far greater, long term threat to a student’s personal and academic development. The official government guidance states, in relation to the reopening of schools: 

“Returning to school is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing. Time out of school is detrimental for children’s cognitive and academic development, particularly for disadvantaged children. This impact can affect both current levels of learning and children’s future ability to learn, and therefore we need to ensure all pupils can return to school sooner rather than later.”

Chief Medical Officers in the UK have sought to address concerns about the reopening of schools by releasing a statement highlighting that the Covid-19 fatality rate amongst children aged between 5-14 ‘is estimated at 14 per million, lower than for most seasonal flu infections’ and the potential for severe disease is low.

So, what measures are schools putting in place to ensure a safe learning environment? 

All schools, irrespective of whether they are state comprehensive, independent or private status, are strongly advised to ensure four key measures are in place to enable schools to reopen safely. These are: 

  • Individuals who display COVID-19 symptoms or live with somebody who displays symptoms must  stay at home and will not be allowed to attend school.
  • Students will be asked to respect and practice social distancing as much as possible  
  • Students will be asked to wash/sanitise their hands more frequently – According to official government advice this means washing hands/sanitising upon arrival school, when moving to another classroom, pre and post eating and at the end of break and lunch times.
  • Follow the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ procedure in relation to coughing and sneezing. 

Other advisable measures include:

  • Pupils are asked to keep a distance from one another where possible within the classroom 
  • Schools are being asked to reduce class sizes where possible to allow for social distancing. 
  • Large school gatherings are to be avoided 
  • Staggering school start and finishing times – to avoid the potential for large groups forming 

It is likely that some COVID-19 precautions and provisions will vary from school to school depending on location, resources and funding available. 

Will my kids have to wear a mask while at school? 

In Scotland and Northern Ireland students in secondary education are to wear face coverings when walking around schools and in shared spaces, effective from the 31st August. 

In England the government has made something of U-turn in regard to face coverings in schools, with Gavin Williamson announcing this week that secondary pupils attending schools in areas experiencing a local lockdown will need to wear face coverings in corridors. 

In Wales the decision to enforce the wearing of face coverings in communal areas has been devolved to the schools themselves and local councils. 

While sending your kids back to school might understandably feel like a daunting task, schools all over the country are doing all they can to ensure as safe a learning environment as possible for your child’s return.