FAQs - Full opening guidance for schools

Updated 7 November 2020


Plymouth city council risk assessment process

  • SSOW Checklist - (Originally sent in April)
    Your SSOW checklist for building controls will need to be revisited in preparation for September reopening. Regular building checks should be in place and with issues such as water safety, instructions according to your water based COSHH assessment and government guidance should be followed. For specialist subjects i.e. science labs,  CLEAPPS guidance is available
  • Risk Assessment template - (Originally issued in May/June)
    You original risk assessment for limited opening will need to be reviewed to take into account the wider opening in September at your school, seeking competent advice where needs arise. You should follow current Government and DfE guidance, which may be subject to change before September
  • Webinars (Dates TBC)
    Previously webinars were offered to assist schools in Risk Assessment methodology and risk scoring. If there are enough schools wishing to partake in an exercise before September reopening, suitable webinars can be arranged. Please email the Children's Service inbox to register your interest childrensservicesrepsonse@plymouth.gov.uk
  • Specialist advice - (July/August/September)
    Health and Safety Advice should be sought from your competent person on completing your risk assessment. For schools accessing the Plymouth City Council HSW services please email childrensservicerepsonse@plymouth.gov.uk and healthandsafety@plymouth.gov.uk to see seek advice from the team
  • Risk Assessment Panel (24 August)
    In line with the previous offer, a Risk Assessment Panel will be formed from EPS, TU reps and HSW teams to offer a joint approach/response to Risk Assessment for schools who buy back Plymouth City Council HSW services and our maintained schools. The panel will "dip sample" submitted risk assessments where concerns have been raised, so please continue to submit your risk assessment to the following emails addresses if you wish to receive feedback childrensservicerepsonse@plymouth.gov.uk and healthandsafety@plymouth.gov.uk
  • Assurance Visits - (October - dates TBC)
    For those schools using the risk assessment panel and our maintained schools we will deliver a set of reassurance visits to check that risk assessment measures are in place. These will be scheduled in October. Areas for improvement and good practise will be shared




Visits from the Health and Safety Executive FAQs

What is the HSE visit about?

  • The HSE have said that they will be doing spot checks on schools to check their COVID arrangements, a copy of the HSE bulletin can be found here
  • They will make contact with you, possibly via telephone in the first instance, then arrange a visit time and ask to see a copy of your risk assessment
  • Some schools, in Devon, have reported that Civica (a company used by the HSE to manage appointments) have contacted the schools to speak to heads and where this has not been facilitated a visit has ensued. In Plymouth we have no direct evidence of this (this will be monitored)
  • The inspectors will wish to walk the school and view your arrangements
    • Ensure what is in your risk assessment reflects the actual arrangements in your school
    • Be vigilant before the visit and proactive in your control measures so that by the time of the visit controls are second nature
    • Answer any questions as best you can

Some questions you might get asked with a reminder of what we have achieved since March

How and where are you informed of COVID-19 advice and support?

Information for all schools:

What Involvement have TU's had with Risk assessments?

  • Locally engage with TU reps over any concerns
  • Formal Risk Assessment Panels have been held - TU, EPS, HSW and PH (where required) - Risk assessments submitted for comment and any issues discussed
  • Lead reps present at RA Panel

Information for schools who purchase Plymouth City Council H&S

What support have you received on completing your risk assessment?

  • Initial webinars held for those heads requesting it by head of Plymouth City Council HSW Assurance
  • Risk Scoring guidance document produced by Plymouth City Council HSW Team and sent out
  • Telephone appointments arranged for heads requesting them to review RA and offer support
  • Risk assessments reviewed by HSW Team on request
  • Reassurance visits carried out on controlled schools, during July and those requesting it as part of buy back services. Further visits planned for November

How is school transport managed?

  • Plymouth City Council have worked with local transport providers on public transport
  • Specific feedback given to schools where public transport access/egress may cause additional hazards, for example external transport hubs.
  • Dedicated transport is managed by Plymouth City Council and have guidelines/risk assessments in place and have worked with schools over arrangements during COVID-19

General ventilation guidance

As we approach the autumn/winter period it may be more difficult to naturally ventilate premises and achieve a comfortable working environment. Ventilation should be considered in line with all other controls procedures such as social distancing, facing side-to-side, washing hands, and surface cleaning

Some general principles that can be followed

  • Always use natural ventilation where possible
    • Opening (external) doors (bearing in mind fire precautions)
    • Opening windows
    • Establish an air flow
  • Air circulation/ventilation systems should be set to 100% fresh air and not recirculate
  • Consider ventilating spaces when they are unoccupied
  • Make sure ventilation facilities are not blocked or obstructed
  • Where music or singing occurs, consider larger, better ventilated spaces
  • Be mindful of the legal minimum of 16 Celsius
  • Engage with your estates staff on any building management systems

Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations - Guidance for Schools - https://www.rehva.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/REHVA_COVID-19_Guidance_School_Buildings.pdf

CIBSE Covid-19 Ventilation Guidance - https://eurovent.eu/sites/default/files/field/file/GEN%20-%201129.12%20-%20UK%20-%20CIBSE%20COVID-19%20Ventilation%20Guidance%20V2.pdf

General reminder - Who is responsible for H&S in Schools?

Under section 29(5) of the Education Act 2002, local authorities have powers to direct health and safety matters relating to school premises or school activities taking place elsewhere in the following types of school:

  • community schools
  • voluntary controlled schools
  • community special schools
  • maintained nursery schools
  • pupil referral units

Local authorities should only use these powers when a school's health and safety arrangements are inadequate.

The legal responsibility and thus accountability for health and safety lies with the employer. While this seems straightforward, who the employer is depends on the type of school. There are also differences across England, Scotland and Wales as detailed below.

England and Wales

School type


Community schools

The local authority

Community special schools

Voluntary controlled schools

Maintained nursery schools

Pupil referral units

Foundation schools

The governing body

Foundation special schools

Voluntary aided schools

Independent schools

The governing body or proprietor



School type


Academies and free schools

The Academy Trust


Schools that are not the responsibility of the Local Authority can choose to buy back services of the Plymouth City Council HSW Team to provide competent advice in matter relating to H&S under the Services4Schools arrangements


Feedback from HSE visit

Thanks to St Andrews CofE and Anne-Marie Allchurch

How long was the visit?

The HSE were on site for about 2 hours

What did they look at?

  • Went through risk assessment and any plans/communications for staff detailing controls
  • What support had you received on completing your risk assessment (see above information)
  • Spoke to Staff members (and would ask to see any local TU Reps)
    • As an example - caretaker, teaching assistant, Yr1 teacher
    • Be mindful of any clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable staff
    • What input did staff have into the risk assessments
    • Was it their plan and did they feel that had ownership of it
    • Could they raise any concerns or issues and would there be an outcome
  • General walk about of the school
  • Looked into classrooms but did not enter (checking tables/pupils were facing forward)
  • Ventilation and Social Distancing - feedback from spot checks in Scotland focused on these issues
    • Focussed on staff/adults social distancing, not children (this was a primary school and may be different for schools with pupils aged 12 and over)
  • Asked if children had their own stationery

What questions were asked and what feedback was given?

HSE were happy to field questions during the visit, examples

  • Clarification over office occupancy
    • Hierarchy of controls should be followed - 2m spacing, working side-to side, screens, together with adequate ventilation
  • COVID rooms - could these be single use or dual purpose, if a school wished to use the room for other purposes
    • An allocated room rather than a reserved room seemed sensible
    • Contingency for more than pone pupil who may have symptoms?
  • Fire doors - as per Plymouth City Council HSW advice - should not be propped open

What feedback was given?

  • Plymouth City Council HSW assurance visits were good practise
  • Engaging with pupils on arrangements, through schools councils etc was good practise
  • Comprehensive risk assessment in place
  • Head felt it was a good advisory visit

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

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