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Schools: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 20th May 2020.

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Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what guidance he has issued to schools on maintaining social distancing within schools with (a) early years children and (b) limited classroom space.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

The safety of pupils and staff returning to school is key. We know that, unlike older children and adults, early years and primary age children cannot be expected to remain 2 metres apart from each other and staff. In deciding to bring more children back to early years and schools, we are taking this into account. Protective measures are possible which, when implemented, substantially reduce the risk of transmission of infection. Schools should therefore work through the hierarchy of protective measures:

  • avoiding contact with anyone with symptoms;
  • frequent hand cleaning and good respiratory hygiene practices;
  • regular cleaning of schools; and
  • minimising contact and mixing.

It is still important to reduce contact between people as much as possible, and we can achieve that and reduce transmission risk by ensuring children, young people and staff where possible, only mix in a small, consistent group and that small group stays away from other people and groups. Public Health England is clear that if early years settings, schools and colleges do this, and crucially if they are also applying regular hand cleaning, hygiene and cleaning measures and handling potential cases of the virus as per the advice, then the risk of transmission will be lowered. Where schools are able to keep children and young people in those small groups 2 metres away from each other, they should do so.

Each school's circumstances will be slightly different. Any school that cannot achieve these small groups at any point should discuss options with their local authority or trust. This might be because there are not enough classrooms or spaces available in the school. Solutions might involve children attending a nearby school, or schools prioritising the younger age groups of newly eligible children.

We have published guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings to support settings to get this right, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-implementing-protective-measures-in-education-and-childcare-settings/coronavirus-covid-19-implementing-protective-measures-in-education-and-childcare-settings.

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