Schools: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 18th September 2020.

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Photo of Tom Hunt Tom Hunt Conservative, Ipswich

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to ensure schools are covid-19 secure during winter 2020-21 when ensuring ventilation in classrooms and outdoor socialising for pupils could become more difficult.

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

On 2 July we published guidance to help schools prepare for all pupils, in all year groups, to return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term. The guidance can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

The above guidance sets out a ‘system of controls’ which provides a framework for school leaders to put in place a range of proportionate protective measures for children and staff, which also ensure that all pupils receive a high quality education that enables them to thrive and progress. Measures include minimising contacts between groups and maintaining distance where possible, encouraging regular handwashing, and enhanced cleaning.

This includes advice that once the school is in operation, it is important to ensure good ventilation and maximising this wherever possible, for example, by opening windows and propping open doors, as long as they are not fire doors, where safe to do so (bearing in mind safeguarding in particular). Arrangements for ventilation will vary in each setting based on individual circumstances.

Advice on this can be found in Health and Safety Executive guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak available at https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/equipment-and-machinery/air-conditioning-and-ventilation.htm.

Whilst schools are encouraged to utilise outdoor space, this may be less practical throughout the winter months. The use of outdoor spaces is one element of the protective measures that schools have available to limit the transmission of coronavirus. There cannot be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and school leaders will be best placed to understand the needs of their schools and communities and to make informed judgments about how to balance delivering a broad and balanced curriculum with the measures needed to manage risk.

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