Distancing, face masks, hand sanitisers… welcome to the class of 2020
Schools introduce new measures to reduce Covid spread
04 September, 2020 — By Helen Chapman and Bronwen Weatherby
The floors are marked at Regent High ahead of the big return to school
PUPILS were faced with a raft of new measures inside school buildings as they returned for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown.
Children have been told to get used to staggered start times, one-way systems and mask wearing in areas likely to become congested. Some will be asked to come to school in their PE kit on days when they are doing sports to avoid changing, while locker use has been suspended for many.
The radical new look to the school day began this week, with most of the secondary schools in Camden expected to have a “full house” by Monday.
Schools were shut to the majority of pupils in March as Covid-19 cases increased, although children of key workers and those considered vulnerable did attend.
Elizabeth Kitcatt, headteacher at Camden School for Girls in Camden Town, said: “What I am picking up from teachers is that the students really need to be here. No matter how much preparation we did for arrangements throughout the lockdown it is just not the same as being in a classroom with teachers.”
She added: “The good thing we have here is various separate buildings so we are able to spread out different year groups in different areas.”
James Hadley at Haverstock School
Across Camden, pupils have been placed into “bubbles” – generally smaller groups than their normal class size which they must then stay with for learning and breaks. A government U-turn last week left headteachers with the decision over whether to enforce face mask use in schools. It would be compulsory if an area were to have a local lockdown after a spike in cases, said the government.
James Hadley, headteacher at Haverstock School in Chalk Farm, said: “In line with the government guidance the classrooms will have students facing forwards and there will be a two-metre line away from the teacher. We have installed over 20 hot taps and soaps to wash hands on entry to the building and three times a day.”
He added: “We had a consultation process as part of designing the approach. For staff with medical conditions we have been adapting the approach for them where appropriate.” Each classroom will also have hand sanitisers for pupils to use.
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At Acland Burghley in Tufnell Park, headteacher Nicholas John said: “We are really looking forward to having the children back and to get them back to some sense of normality. We have got staggered starts at the beginning and end of the day.“They are coming in three separate parts of the school and we have an additional dining facility.”
He added: “We have got six outside sinks with hand-washing facilities. Inside the school there are lots of ways we are managing the corridors with keeping-to-the-left rules and one-way systems.”
New hand-washing basins at Haverstock
The UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage says it will operate its own “track and trace procedure” to identify staff and students with any Covid-19 symptoms. Pupils have been told to bring water bottles in to the school as there will be no “access” to drinking water. There have been sweeping changes at Regent High School in Somers Town too, ahead of the return of all students next week.
Headteacher Gary Moore said: “The staff are very confident about coming back so I’m expecting all pupils to be back, but I do live in the real world, and that’s why we’ve had heads of year making calls to our vulnerable families and having that conversation with them and reassuring them it is the right thing for their children to return to school.”
Each year will have a staggered start time, and will have their own entrance to arrive through but face masks will not be compulsory, said Mr Moore.
Gary Moore at Regent High School
He added: “I’m not expecting anyone to wear masks but neither will any member of staff or student be told to remove them if they would like to wear one. I’m leaving it up to personal choice, much like you see while walking down the high street.”
Camden Council’s schools chief Councillor Angela Mason said: “The best place for all children and young people is to be in full-time education, not only for their learning but also for their mental health, social development and physical wellbeing. The safety and wellbeing of Camden’s schoolchildren, families and staff is our main priority. However, as pupils return, we also understand this will continue to be a tough time for schools, and that staff and parents or carers will have some concerns about how schools will be able to maintain a safe environment.”
She added: “I’d like to reassure pupils, staff and families, that Camden Learning, Public Health and local trade unions have been working to support schools with their preparations to welcome back pupils to an environment where they feel safe and supported. This includes careful planning, helping schools to undertake rigorous risk assessments and working closely with our family of schools to ensure that the necessary safety measures are in place.”
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