FAQs - Full opening guidance for schools

Updated 13 November 2020

Contents


PPE

What PPE should I wear to look after children / young persons with personal care or first aid needs?    

This includes gloves, apron and a fluid resistant surgical mask. If there is a risk of splashing of bodily fluids then eye protection should also be used. Schools will be provided with emergency packs of PPE to use in these circumstances

How do we dispose of PPE and tissues?   

PPE and tissues should be disposed of separately to your other waste. Please use separate bins and when the bag is removed tie it securely and double bag. Leave in a designated place for 72hrs before putting into the wheelie bins for collection.

By the end of the summer, Public Health England will publish revised guidance for cleaning non-healthcare settings to advise on general cleaning required in addition to the current advice on COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings guidance.

How should PPE and face coverings be disposed of?

Used PPE and any disposable face coverings that staff, children, young people or other learners wearing should be placed in a refuse bag and can be disposed of as normal domestic waste unless the wearer has symptoms of coronavirus, in line with guidance.

PPE and tissues should be disposed of separately to your other waste. Please use separate bins and when the bag is removed tie it securely and double bag. Leave in a designated place for 72hrs before putting into the wheelie bins for collection.

By the end of the summer, Public Health England will publish revised guidance for cleaning non-healthcare settings to advise on general cleaning required in addition to the current advice on COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings guidance.

Can alcohol gel be used by children in school? The COSH requirements state if used by children should be below a certain % but for COVID needs to be higher?

Alcohol gels with at least 70% alcohol should be available as they are effective in killing this virus and can be used safely, and under supervision, by children in schools.

Do parents have to wear a facemask when picking their children up from school?

In England, face coverings must be warn in specific indoor settings. 

When to wear, and how to make a facemask guidance

Face coverings in education guidance

Schools and colleges have the discretion to require face coverings in indoor communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed, if they believe that it is right in their particular circumstances.

What is the guidance for wearing facemasks in lessons?

On the basis of current evidence, in light of the mitigating measures education settings are taking, and the negative impact on communication, face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom even where social distancing is not possible. There is greater use of the system of controls for minimising risk, including through keeping in small and consistent groups or bubbles, and greater scope for physical distancing by staff within classrooms. Face coverings can have a negative impact on learning and teaching and so their use in the classroom should be avoided. 

Face coverings in education guidance

Under what circumstances can a pupil be exempt from wearing a facemask in communal areas of the school?

Exemptions Schools Guidance

Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings. For example people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate. The same exemptions will apply in education settings, and we would expect teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs.

Exemptions Generic Guidance

If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering:

  • you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this
  • you do not need show an exemption card

This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering.

Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.

No-one should be excluded from education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

 

Cleaning and waste

 We have heard about schools using commercial spray cleaning machines; can you provide details?

    These are called fogging machines and utilise commercial equipment with disinfectants densely sprayed over inanimate objects to kill the majority of germs. Before purchasing any such equipment you must take account of the following:

  • The need to comply with PUWER Regulations in the purchasing, maintaining and repairing of the equipment
  • Also the training and the competence of the people who will be using the machine
  • Risk assessment of the work activity
  • COSHH RA in regards to the chemicals used
  • Providing the appropriate PPE

This type of cleaning has not formed part of the Governments Guidance for the cleaning of non-healthcare settings.

There are companies in the City who provide this level of cleaning which would reduce the burden of the above should you choose to use.

Can we ask teaching staff to undertake cleaning?    

Ad hoc cleaning of work surfaces, children's books and play equipment is acceptable; other mainstream cleaning such as toilet facilities should be undertaken by an employed and trained cleaner.

 

Infection control and hand hygiene

If a child or a member of staff in one of our 'bubbles' falls ill with COVID-19 symptoms at school, should we send everyone home?

The 'bubble' that the suspected case was part of would remain in school and would only be sent home once the test outcome is known and is confirmed as positive for COVID19. Note - if the suspected case is confirmed following a test but the case had not been in the school during the infectious period i.e. 48 hours before symptoms were experienced to 7 days after, the school will not need to send the 'bubble' home.

Who should be sent home?

If anyone in the school becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), they must be sent home and the case and their family if a child/ young person advised to follow 'stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection'. They should self-isolate but get tested as soon as possible. The household should also self-isolate whilst waiting for the test outcome, this will also include the case's siblings who may also be at school. If the test outcome is negative the case can go back to school but may need to remain off if still unwell until better as would normally be expected with. The household, including any siblings, can return to their normal routine as well. A positive test outcome will require the case remaining in self-isolation for 7 days following the day symptoms were experienced. Other members of their household (including any siblings) should then self-isolate for 14 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms. Any members of staff outside of the bubble who have helped someone with symptoms and any pupils (also outside of the bubble) who have been in close contact with them do not need to go home to self-isolate unless they develop symptoms themselves (in which case, they should self -isolate and arrange a test) or if they have been requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

What PPE should I wear to look after children / young persons with personal care or first aid needs?    

This includes gloves, apron and a fluid resistant surgical mask. If there is a risk of splashing of bodily fluids then eye protection should also be used. Schools will be provided with emergency packs of PPE to use in these circumstances

Can we prop open all of our doors for ventilation purposes?    

No. You must not prop open any fire doors as this presents another hazard. In propping open any doors or windows you must risk assess whether another hazard is created e.g. uncontrolled movement in and out of classrooms, the school building, falling out of windows etc.

For example, door guards can be installed to allow the opening of fire doors but release them automatically when the fire alarm sounds. This may allow ventilation but still provide protection against fire. These must be suitably installed and maintained by a competent person.

Can we put markings on the public highways to denote social distancing at school gates?

Yes. Please follow the following steps:

  1. Plans of what is proposed should be submitted to Plymouth Highways for approval before implementation to TrafficManagementInbox@plymouth.gov.uk
  2. Consideration of how wide the footway fronting the school is and whether there would be enough room to observe social distancing if parents are waiting along the footpath with their children.
  3. Is there anything the school could do to assist with social distancing such as trimming hedges that may be and obstruction to the footway?
  4. Should warning of School Waiting Zone -Please use other Footway be given?
  5. Use of A3 Laminated notices attached to lamp columns or school gates could be considered.  Any Notices should be mounted at a minimum height of 2.1m to the bottom of the sign
  6. Any markings to the pavement or road should be made with temporary paint

Is it ok to share telephone receivers?         

Yes, if there is no other option. You must clean the telephone handset with a suitable spray or wipe between every use and minimise the use / sharing the use as much as possible. Keep the area well ventilated and only allow one person in the area at any one time.

Can we still sing by way of helping the children learn?

Schools should consider how to reduce the risk, particularly when pupils are playing instruments or singing in small groups such as in music lessons by, for example, physical distancing and playing outside wherever possible, limiting group sizes to no more than 15, positioning pupils back-to-back or side-to-side, avoiding sharing of instruments, and ensuring good ventilation

Should a child come to school if a member of their household is unwell?

Those who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, should not attend school and be advised to follow 'stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection'.

Anyone who displays symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can and should get a test. Tests can be booked online through the NHS testing and tracing for coronavirus website, or ordered by telephone via NHS 119 for those without access to the internet.

If someone tests negative, if they feel well and no longer have symptoms like coronavirus (COVID-19), they, and other members of their household can stop self-isolating and return to school.

If someone tests positive, they should follow the 'stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection' and must continue to self-isolate for at least 7 days from the onset of their symptom. Other members of their household should continue self-isolating for the full 14 days.

Which contacts need to self-isolate?

When anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), the members of their household (including any siblings) should self-isolate for 14 days from when the symptomatic person first had symptoms.

Current guidance recommends that where should the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class or group within their childcare or education setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days.

Should someone with symptoms tests negative and if they feel well and no longer have symptoms similar to coronavirus (COVID-19), they, and other members of their household can stop self-isolating and return to school.

A child reports to us that they have had contact with someone with symptoms, but the parents have not informed us - what should we do?

No one with symptoms should be attending school and anyone who develops symptoms while at school should be isolated and sent home as soon as possible. Schools should regularly remind parents of the government guidance on staying at home and the importance of a household self-isolating if anyone in the household develops symptoms.

Do you have specific advice on who is a contact of a case, i.e. the definitions?

A contact is defined as a person who, in the period 48 hours prior to and 7 days after the possible or confirmed case's symptom onset or specimen collection date, has at least one of the following types of exposure:

Household contact: Those that are living or spending significant time in the same household e.g. those that live and sleep in the same home, students in university accommodation that share a kitchen and sexual partners and people who have cleaned a household where a case lives without personal protective equipment.

Direct contact: Face to face contact with a case for any length of time, including being coughed on or talked to. This includes exposure within 1 metre for 1 minute or longer.

Proximity contact: Extended close contact (within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes) with a case or travelled in a small vehicle with a case.

Do we need to have running water to meet the hand hygiene requirements?

We would advise the use of running water. All examples from credible sources clearly show that washing and rinsing hands with clean running water is a key element.

A child is isolating as a result of contact with positive case in their school bubble.  Can they accompany an older sibling, who has not been in contact with a positive case and is still able to attend school, on the school run?

Self-isolation guidance

If you have been informed that your child is a contact they must isolate at home for 14 days from the date of their last contact with the individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Self-isolation means that your child must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days.

It is very important that you follow this advice even if your child feels well, as symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear from their last contact with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Families must follow this guidance to the best of their ability, however, it is accepted that individual circumstances will mean that following all measures will not be possible all of the time.

 

Sharing resources and play equipment

What should we used to clean with including play equipment?

Clean using your standard cleaning products taking care not to create splashing. Do not use power washers for outside play equipment as these generate aerosols which could spread the virus.

By the end of the summer, Public Health England will publish revised guidance for cleaning non-healthcare settings to advise on general cleaning required in addition to the current advice on COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings guidance.

Should we let children borrow reading books?    

Guidance about school libraries can be found on the CIIP website.

Equipment and resources are integral to education in schools. Classroom based resources, such as books and games, can be used and shared within the bubble; these should be cleaned regularly, along with all frequently touched surfaces. Resources that are shared between classes or bubbles, such as sports, art and science equipment should be cleaned frequently and meticulously and always between bubbles, or rotated to allow them to be left unused and out of reach for a period of 48 hours (72 hours for plastics) between use by different bubbles.

Pupils and teachers can take books and other shared resources home, although unnecessary sharing should be avoided, especially where this does not contribute to pupil education and development. Similar rules on hand cleaning, cleaning of the resources and rotation should apply to these resources.

Is it ok to share IT equipment such as laptops, keyboards, mouse, printers etc?

Yes. However the IT equipment should be cleaned between each user

 

Risk assessments

If I am using Plymouth City Council risk assessment can I just colour code our risks rather than score them?    

No. The PCC Performance Standard for Risk Assessment requires you to undertake risk scoring for every element of your risk assessment. For further information please contact childrensservicesresponse@plymouth.gov.uk 

How specific does the RA need to be about numbers of children?    

Your risk assessment should be specific about the numbers of children in each bubble and the total number of bubbles; also the maximum occupancy of any room.

In order to open my school fully in September, what measures should be in place?

For schools who do not buy back Plymouth City Council Health and Safety:

  • Schools should have access to competent advice which would include a programme of building checks and maintenance in place before reopening.  
  • Schools should have completed a COVID-19 risk assessment which has been reviewed by a suitable body.

For schools who do buy back Plymouth City Council Health and Safety:

  • You have completed and returned a H&S checklist to healthandsafety@plymouth.gov.uk  (be mindful that closure over the summer period will require some regular building checks need to be carried out and some processes will need to be followed before the school reopens e.g. water/taps/showers will need to be flushed through. Also some science equipment may need checking, such as pressure systems and CLEAPPS guidance should be followed)
  • You have produced a COVID-19 risk assessment, which has been reviewed by the PCC panel and approved as suitable and sufficient
  • You have put in place every risk control that your risk assessment has identified
  • You have communicated the risk controls to employees and parents, and have a plan to explain these to children and young people when they return

September opening may change the risk factors that your school may face with increased pupil and staff numbers. You should revisit your initial risk assessment and review each of the hazards present and adopt a risk management approach. 

For example, would the introduction of staggered start times introduce another risk factor, given limitations on public transport i.e. increased risk of RTC (road traffic collisions) and groups of children congregating outside the school? Would a zoned controlled entry at the same start time for bubbles reduce or eliminate this risk? This is the principle of risk management and careful consideration should be given to the hazards identified and the control measures to be applied
 

Our School needs help with the RA process, who should we contact?    

Clare Cotter, Head of HSW Assurance for PCC and Shaun Badmin HSW Assurance Specialist are available to support you through this process. You will receive a feedback email from Clare in the first instance with details of who is available to support you  and how to contact them.

Please copy in healthandsafety@plymouth.gov.uk and childrensservicesrepsonse@plymouth.gov.uk to your communications so that any absence and replies can be covered

Our TU reps want to be involved in the RA process, should we include them?    

Yes. We have a legal duty to engage with TU reps in risk assessments and you will find they have a wealth of knowledge about health and safety to bring to your thinking

If there is a Fire on site are we still required to follow any one way system?    

No. Evacuation should be by the nearest exit point, socially distancing where possible and if you are not at risk of injury

 

Testing

If a parent won't take their child for a test, do we need to keep the whole bubble / group in self-isolation for 14 days?

No: Until we have confirmation of a positive test, contacts should remain in the setting.

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.

The government will ensure that it is as easy as possible to get a test through a wide range of routes that are locally accessible, fast and convenient.

By the autumn term, all schools will be provided with a small number of home testing kits that they can give directly to parents/carers collecting a child who has developed symptoms at school, or staff who have developed symptoms at school, where they think providing one will significantly increase the likelihood of them getting tested. Advice will be provided alongside these kits.

We currently have no evidence that parents in Plymouth have not cooperated with the testing system. 

Should any families need additional support with testing however, then this should be undertaken on a case-by-case basis with local authority and PHE colleagues. This would include managing any potential contacts  

Should we take the children's temperatures?    

Public Health England is clear that routinely taking the temperature of pupils is not recommended as this is an unreliable method for identifying coronavirus (COVID-19).

What is recommendation for testing in under 5's?

The National Testing Service (P2) are now doing testing in under 5s.

Does my school have to display the NHS QR Code?

The guidance states that education settings are not expected to create NHS QR code posters for the provision of childcare, education or training in their settings as part of their normal day to day operations.  (06/11/20).

However, if their setting is used for any activities or provision in their setting where members of the public take part or make use of premises for hospitality, leisure or close contact services, the NHS QR code must be displayed.

 

Staffing

Can we ask employees to work at the school if they are in the clinically vulnerable group?    

Individuals who were considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and received a letter advising them to shield are now advised that they can return to work from 1 August as long as they maintain social distancing. Advice for those who are extremely clinically vulnerable can be found in the guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19.

School leaders should be flexible in how those members of staff are deployed to enable them to work remotely where possible or in roles in school where it is possible to maintain social distancing.

Should we be providing PPE for our employees?    

Individuals who were considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and received a letter advising them to shield are now advised that they can return to work from 1 August as long as they maintain social distancing. Advice for those who are extremely clinically vulnerable can be found in the guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19.

School leaders should be flexible in how those members of staff are deployed to enable them to work remotely where possible or in roles in school where it is possible to maintain social distancing.

 

School meals

Catering arrangements in schools from September.

The DfE published guidance on the 2nd July 2020 that sets out the public health advice schools must follow to minimise the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission, as pupils return to their school from September.  

Planning for Catering

DFE expect that kitchens will be fully open, from the start of the autumn term and normal legal requirements will apply about provision of food to all pupils who want it, including for those eligible for benefits-related free school meals or universal infant free school meals.

School kitchens can continue to operate, but must comply with the guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Plymouth schools and settings that are part of the CATERed partnership will already be working closely with Brad Pearce and his team to make the necessary arrangements.  

We would say normal legal requirements are: -

  1. Meeting the mandatory standards for school food (a number of academies can be exempt from this if the converted between 2010 and 2013/14). Please read https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/standards-for-school-food-in-england and https://www.schoolfoodplan.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/School-Food-Standards-Guidance-FINAL-V3.pdf
  1. Mandatory for Governors to feed Benefit-based FSM pupils
  2. Mandatory for Governors to feed children UIFSM
  3. Requirement to provide a paid meal on request
  4. Menus should be published over a minimum two week cycle or maximum of 4 weeks cyclic.  We like many others do three weeks which fits with school terms. 

 

Funding

If a School runs into staffing problems because of COVID-19, can they claim under COVID 19 Fund or any other fund for financial help?  

Schools should use their existing resources to make arrangements to welcome all children back. There are no plans at present to reimburse additional costs incurred as part of that process.

 

If you have any questions or feedback about these pages please email childrensservicesresponse@plymouth.gov.uk

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