“I am deeply relieved that the government has agreed that all children and young people should go back to school from 1 September following the disruption of lockdown. We may never fully appreciate the impact that the fall-out from coronavirus had on their education and future achievement but what is in no doubt is that children and young people should be in school, not only for them to learn, but for their mental health and wellbeing – having a more normal routine and being back with their peers and friends is important.”
The County Council’s Director for Public Health, Simon Bryant, added: “Parents and carers should feel reassured that children are far less likely to be affected by coronavirus. A Public Health England Study showed that those aged under 16 account for just 1.1 per cent of 130,000 confirmed coronavirus cases during the first wave of the virus.”
According to the Office for National Statistics*, 90 per cent of school age parents indicated their children will be returning to school or college in September. Hampshire’s educators are fully prepared to have them back, confident they have put in place arrangements to help prevent the spread of coronavirus infection. While those arrangements will vary from school to school, depending on the size and layout of their sites, as well as the ages and number of children attending, the measures will include:
• Placing children in distinct ‘bubbles’ (groups) to be maintained throughout the school day
• Operating a one-way system around the school site
• Staggering the start and end of the school day
• Staggering break times
• Building time for frequent handwashing in the daily timetable
• Additionally, providing hand sanitiser in strategic areas of the building
• Frequent reminders to Catch It, Bin It, Kill It
• Additional cleaning of school buildings.
Wherever possible, and for multiple health benefits, children and young people are encouraged to walk, scoot or cycle to school. The County Council has installed a range of temporary changes across the county to provide more road space for people walking and cycling – keeping a safe social distance as they begin to go back to work and school after the Coronavirus lockdown.
Government guidance will apply to home to school travel arrangements for children and young people, eligible for school transport funded by the County Council. There is no requirement for social distancing on dedicated services but there will be a set of controls that will apply, such as use of hand sanitiser and where possible sitting in year groups. Face coverings for pupils over 11 are recommended. Enhanced cleaning will apply to vehicles being used on home to school journeys. Pupils who travel on public transport will be required to respect the social distancing measures on public bus services and, if they are aged 11 years old or over, must wear a face covering.
If a pre-school child or school pupil displays any symptoms of coronavirus, education settings will follow the Public Health England guidance that they have been given including what to do in the event of a confirmed case of the virus in an education setting. The closure of any school due to coronavirus will be a last resort action and only on the advice of the local Public Health England Health Protection Team.