Schools are re-opening…
We mean “opening further”
Schools across the country are planning for the ways in which they can further reopen their schools for more children. Not many schools have ever truly shut completely as they have been providing care for key worker children and vulnerable children. And even where teachers are not in school they are certainly not on holiday, no matter what certain media outlets may have you believe! From providing links to home learning, to online live lessons, to care packages and dropping off food to families in need, schools have most definitely been working.
Yet from June 1st they are being asked to open their doors wider. To make space for nursery children, Reception classes, Year 1 and Year 6. Secondary schools are being asked to prepare for some face-to-face time with Years 10 and 12 from June 15th.
Guidance has been coming thick and fast with many documents being released since the government first floated the school “reopening” plans. Many of these documents are still being released – including on the Sunday of the bank holiday weekend at the start of the half term week for many schools.
Guidance is often confusing; for EYFS, groups of 8 children are ideal but no more than 16 but possibly 15 if you are a school as schools should have classes of 15. Erm….ok….sure. And some guidance seems to contradict itself i.e. you must ensure 2m social distancing is adhered to but also we realise these children are young and probably won’t adhere to 2m social distancing.
The magic R number remains still a bit of a mystery and teacher unions are still waiting on confirmation that the 5 tests have been ticked off before they encourage teachers to actually get into school. [Edit, confirmed 28th May]
Schools are also making differing interpretations of the guidance which leads to some very different setups from school to school. Some are taping off areas across the whole school and plan to keep children separated fully. Others say they will allow “bubbles” of children to play together to some extent in the playground.
What is clear from pretty much every school is that 15 children in one classroom will not mean they are 2m apart anyway. And the guidance lets us know that toilet lids must be closed when the toilet is flushed….and I suspect that means many schools are trying to buy toilet lids as usually these are removed for safety in many classes of young children!
Some councils have told their schools they do not need to open and are letting schools know they will “have their back” if they are called into question as they believe June 1st is too early to open. Which is understandable given how much we do not yet know about the transmission of the virus especially in school settings.
However, schools are planning their return so that everything is in place for whenever they do need to open. As even in September it is likely social distancing of some kind will still be needed. This is causing some concern among parents who are not sure if they want to send their children back to school right now.
For some parents, it isn’t even a question yet as their child may not be in the chosen year groups who are the priority. For others they know they will not be fined for not sending their child back (although according to the guidance they may get a call every single day they are off to reconfirm their choice), so they are contemplating not sending their children back at all yet.
For some parents, there is no real choice. If their employer expects them to be back at work then the childcare element alone becomes essential as the only other option may be losing their job and not being able to feed their family which is, of course, a very serious consideration.
At this stage, everything is changing very quickly and schools may be prepared but then not open, or may open earlier than expected if things change i.e. bringing older children in too as new announcements are unpredictable.
The most important thing for parents right now is to give them as much information as possible so that they can make informed decisions. We know of many parents who are worried about what school might “look like” to their children on their return. Lots of our schools are sharing their opening plans with photos and even videos on the website alongside all the rules and procedures which will be in place to help keep their children safe.
Some parents may be reassured by the steps taken, where others might decide not to send their child based on what they see. At least this is an informed discussion, however, and will help schools to gauge the responses to their measures and adjust as needed if it is safe to do so. Keeping more parents happy and reassured.
We do not envy schools the task they have at the moment. But if we can assist in any way with helping you to show parents what you have planned then let us know and we can advise on getting a page together for your website. Or talk to us about our virtual tour features which can help you to show parents the school including classrooms and outside spaces remotely.