Most Hastings schools will reopen to pupils from Monday 7th September – for the majority, their first entry back through the gates since March. They will find a transformed system of controls within to conform with government guidance. 

“Good hygiene” – hand sanitising and soap-and-water washing to the fore – will be a basic element. But schools have also been told to minimise contact between individual pupils and maintain social distancing “wherever possible”. Start and finish times should be staggered. The number of contacts which each pupil has with others during the day should be limited by putting classes or whole year groups into “protective bubbles”.

PICTURE: Dave Young

Each school has been required to produce a Risk Assessment. Ark Alexandra Academy in Hastings have posted theirs on their website. Here’s an extract:

• Classes of 10 students will be the maximum and students will remain in their classrooms for the duration for the sessions 

• One three-hour morning session only, there will be no break or lunch time 

• Staggered entry, start and dismissal times 

• Single exam desks will be used in classrooms, they will be at least 2m apart 

• Each student will be allocated a desk for all sessions 

• There will be a 2m area around the teacher desk and whiteboard which is clearly marked and restricted to teacher use 

• Equipment will be allocated to each desk and is only for that student’s use 

• Floor markings will be in all relevant internal and external spaces marking out 2m 

• There will be no movement of students with the exception of entry and departure 

• Students will be escorted to the toilet, only one student from each bubble at a time 

• Toilets will be allocated to each bubble, and there will be a cleaner on stand by

• NO SOCIAL TIME – There will be no break or lunch times and no social gathering

Other schools are expected to impose similar codes.

What is this all for? Latest data from the Office for National Statistics show that there were 10 deaths recorded as “due to Covid-19” among those aged 19 and under in England and Wales between March and June compared to 46,725 deaths above that age. And, according to a Public Health England study published on Sunday, of the more than one million children who attended pre-school and primary schools in England in June, just 70 children and 128 staff were identified as infected in outbreaks of coronavirus. Most of these were thought to have been caused by staff members infecting other staff or pupils, with only two outbreaks believed to involve infection passing between pupils. The study also suggests that children who went to school during June were more likely to catch  the virus at home than at school.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday (24th August): “The risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small, and it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health and wellbeing to be away from school any longer.

“This is why it’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends.

“Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school.”

Whether parents accept that or not, school attendance will again be mandatory, except for pupils who develop symptoms or test positive for the virus, or have been in close contact with someone who has. Head teachers are directed to follow up absences and issue sanctions. Court action could presumably follow. 

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