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Back to school: parents are urged to hold off on hugs

New coronavirus guidelines are sent to Islington pupils’ homes

04 September, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Safety measures have been introduced at schools across the borough

PARENTS have been advised to “limit” hugs with children when they return home from school due to coronavirus concerns.

Pupils went back to classes this week after almost six months away due to the Covid-19 crisis, with most Islington schools expecting to be back up to their full capacity by Monday.

But families have been handed lists of new safety measures and advice on how to help reduce the transmission of the virus.

In a letter to parents, Jill McLaughlin, chair of governors of the Islington Futures federation of schools, which includes Beacon High and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, said that children needed to “understand why” they need to practise social distancing.

She advised parents to consider implementing their own regime for protecting vulnerable and elderly relatives at home, writing:

“This may, for example, include changing [them] out of school uniform as soon as children arrive home, washing hands and faces, and of course limiting those all-important hugs.”

Ms McLaughlin added: “Nobody can completely guarantee that there will be no Covid infection in our schools, but we do know that we are making many changes to how schools work, to reduce the risk of passing on any infection. For months now we have all been practising ‘washing our hands’ or using sanitisers. We have learnt how to stand away from others [and] how not to hug each other, no matter how nice that would be.”

Jill McLaughlin (left) and Susan Service

Meanwhile, at the Arts and Media School Islington, in Finsbury Park, students will be prohibited from mixing with other year groups and absolute silence in corridors will be expected between classes “to reduce the risk of infec­tion from saliva when talking face to face”.

Headteacher Susan Service added: “If a student is unwell and appears to have symptoms consistent with Covid-19, the student will be collected by an appropriate staff member who will wear full PPE.

“These students will be isolated in a ventilated room and parents will be asked to come and collect the student as soon as possible; parents are advised to take their child for a test and inform the school immediately when the results are known.”

Other safety measures at different Islington schools include staggering start and finishing times and more use of electronic devices such as tablets so that teachers do not have to touch students’ paperwork.

At Beacon High, formerly known as Holloway School, pupils are expected to wear masks if travelling by public transport, but they can then take them off when they arrive in school.

Deputy headteacher Sarah McDonald told the Tribune: “We are really looking forward to having our full cohort of students back in school. We are welcoming them back into a safe environment.

“What we are doing is running staggered starts and lunch and break time. We are also organising for year groups to be in their bubbles and teachers will travel between classrooms to teach them in their bubbles.”

She added: “The classrooms are all set up to provide for social distancing and there are hand sanitation areas all around the school.”

Government guidance is for pupils to wear masks when moving between classes if local lockdown measures have been introduced following a major coronavirus outbreak.

This is not the case at the moment in Islington where the number of infections is currently considered low, but each school has its own discretion over plans that they think they need to make the school day safe.

Schools were closed to most pupils in March as coronavirus cases increased and the daily death toll rose. Only children of key workers and those considered potentially vulnerable continued to attend.

The big reopening follows weeks of warnings that teaching staff must be protected and criticism that government guidance has not been made clear.

But ministers now say they must get children back in class, and families who keep pupils away could face fines.

A poll conducted from YouGov found that one in six parents across England and Wales were considering not sending their children back due to their virus fears.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said this week: “Headteachers and staff will be concerned if pupils are not attending. Schools will have their own approaches to attendance and many schools will be phoning up parents to make sure they are attending.”

He added: “The head will want to assure families that the measures that have been taken to keep schools safe have been incredible.”

• AT St Aloysius’ RC College in Hornsey Lane, Highgate, the school said it would provide all pupils with a free cotton “St Aloysius snood” to use as a face covering.

A message on the school’s website said: “This is now part of the uniform and must be worn as PPE when in communal spaces (e.g. corridors, canteen). This snood is not to be worn as PPE in classrooms (LA guidance).

“No other face masks are permitted. Additional snoods can be purchased from the school at a cost of 50p each.”

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