With the school calendar year commencing once again, schools across Britain are having to adapt their classrooms and procedures to provide a safer and hygienic environment for their pupils and staff and prevent the ongoing spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Focus Washrooms is a hygiene specialist provider which has been helping schools, hospitals and other high traffic areas for over 20 years. Our products include wall cladding, doors and panels which limit the spread of germs and are easy-to-clean.
Currently, we are helping schools across the UK to implement the best hygiene products and below we have comprised the complete guide for school hygiene requirements in light of COVID-19, in line with UK Government guidelines.
Key Points For School Hygiene During COVID-19
- Washing hands often
- Cleaning more regularly
- Limited use of shared objects
- Actions if cases break out at school
- Keeping within bubbles
- Face masks not a necessity
- Shielding vulnerable children
- Pick-up and drop-off
- Funding COVID-19 procedures
COVID-19 can be reduced and killed from surfaces, objects and hands if the right cleaning products are used and procedures are implemented.
When preventing the spread of COVID-19, we are looking at direct transmission (coming into contact with sneezing and coughing) and indirect transmission (such as touching contaminated surfaces).
Studies show that the virus spreads from person-to-person and by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then by touching your own mouth, nose or your eyes.
The spreading of infection can be reduced and killed by regular cleaning and disinfecting of areas and surfaces that people frequently touch.
Three Main Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- A new continuous cough
- A high temperature
- A loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)
Keeping your hands clean and washed regularly can be one of the most effective ways to protect yourself against the coronavirus.
When the virus is still on an individual’s hand, it risks getting passed on to another person or surface. Germs can enter the body through the mouth, nose or eyes and this can cause the contraction of COVID-19. A good hand washing session should last at least 20 seconds using soap and water or hand sanitiser which carries at least 60% alcohol.
Alcohol sanitisers should be available where hand basins are not easily fitted, such as doorways, classrooms, gyms and shared surfaces.
Teachers and staff should teach and reinforce the importance of hand washing, in the school toilet facilities or through hand washing stations on campus. Teachers should incorporate hand washing in the daily routine such as bathroom breaks, before and after lunch and when children have been playing outside.
Some pupils should be supervised when washing hands and extra time should be given to accommodate those children that are social distancing.
Children under the age of 6 should be closely supervised when using hand sanitisers or alcoholic gel to avoid swallowing the substance or getting contact with the eyes.
Hand hygiene should be promoted throughout the school by placing visual cues such as posters on doors and walls, stickers and other materials in highly visible areas.
Cleaning More Regularly
Schools should use disinfectants to reduce germs and bacteria on clean shared surfaces such as tables, doors and other areas, using ready-to-use sprays, concentrates and wipes.
Schools should allow for cleaning staff to work more regularly and clean classrooms sometimes more than once per day e.g lunch breaks and after school
Window ventilation should be used where possible and on a regular basis.
If professional cleaners are not available, students and staff should attend to cleaning shared surfaces and should have adequate accessibility to cleaning and disinfection supplies in each classroom such as cleaning sprays, paper towels and gloves.
School staff should anticipate how much they need in terms of cleaning supplies and should have excess supplies available on the school grounds.
Limit The Use of Shared Objects
There are a number of shared items and objects in a school and classroom environment, which may be carrying the virus if not cleaned or disinfected regularly. This includes, toys, games, computer devices, gym equipment or art supplies.
Pupils should be discouraged from sharing items that are difficult to clean such as books, learning aids, electronic devices and erasers.
Soft and porous materials such as rugs and bean bags may be removed from classrooms due to the challenges involved with sanitising them.
Pupils are encouraged to label any of their own personal items and keep them in labeled containers, lockers or cubbies to avoid shared usage.
Teachers should be responsible for reducing the need to share or touch materials, limiting pupils to their own items or offering equipment to one group of students and disinfecting in between use.
Actions if COVID-19 Cases Break Out at School
Schools should be prepared to implement short-term closures (e.g 1 week or 2 weeks) if there has been an infected person in the school building.
Schools may need to send an entire class or year group home, or depending on the number of cases, temporarily shut down the entire school.
It is advised to close off the potentially infected areas for a significant amount of time and use alternative classrooms where feasible.
Where possible, wait up to 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting the infected area and open any outside doors and windows to increase air circulation.
Areas and surfaces should be disinfected including offices, bathrooms, tables, doors and other shared equipment.
If a Child Develops Symptoms of COVID-19
If a child develops the three main symptoms of COVID-19 including high temperature, loss of taste and smell and a continuous cough, they should do the following:
- Be sent home and put into isolation for a minimum of 2 weeks
- If awaiting collection, they should be put in an isolated room with open ventilation and supervised by an adult
- If an isolation room is not available, they should be outside or in an area that is 2 metres or more apart from other individuals
- If the child needs to use the bathroom, they should use a separate school bathroom which should be cleaned and disinfected after use
- PPE (gloves and mask) should be worn by any staff member that is caring for the child. The staff member does not need to go home and isolate but should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.
- If the child’s life is in danger or at risk, please call 999 but do not take the child to a doctor, GP, health centre or pharmacist
Keeping Within Bubbles and Consistent Groups
Whilst it is hard to keep small children 2 metres apart, especially in a classroom or playground, pupils should be assigned to consistent groups, otherwise known as ‘bubbles.’ These consistent groups should be organised and overseen by teachers. Where possible, teachers should look to halve class sizes or reduce class numbers, although this may be restricted with teacher shortages.
Teachers should ensure that different groups or bubbles do not mix during the day. Where possible, pupils should use the same classroom, the same seating or area throughout the day, with a thorough cleaning of this room at the end of each day.
Face Masks ‘Not a Necessity’
Staff members do not require PPE assuming that they are maintaining a 2 metre distance from other individuals and pupils. Unless staff members can regularly change masks and gloves, PPE may not be fully effective.
In addition, if teachers and pupils are distancing, keeping within organised groups, cleaning regularly and washing their hands, these should be effective measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The only occasions where PPE such as face masks and gloves may be necessary are when dealing with a child who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or with a child who may be deemed vulnerable.
Shielding Vulnerable Children
Those issues with recurring health issues, vulnerabilities or deemed high-risk should not be expected to attend school or college.
A small minority of children will fall into this category and parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category.
Pick-up and Drop-off
Schools need to ensure transport arrangements cater for any change in start and finish times. If schools are responsible for school buses and coach rotas, they must ensure that any drivers are not exhibiting any symptoms, there is adequate distancing between passengers (2 metres) and that ample ventilation (either windows or devices) is provided.
Schools should encourage parents and children to walk or cycle with their children to school and avoid rotas which have multiple children and households in one vehicle. Larger vehicles could be used to create distance between pupils or parents should run 2 vehicles rather than one.
Allocated drop-off and pick-up areas may be designated depending on social groups and bubbles.
Funding COVID Prevention Measures
Schools can apply to their local authority to help fund any measures needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A further £1 billion has been allocated by the UK government to assist with 2 million disadvantaged children whose education may have been affected by COVID-19. Known as ‘catch up activities’ funding will be available in the form of tutors, educational technology and personal coaches. Schools can apply for funding here.
If education or childcare administrators cannot obtain the PPE they need, they can approach their local authority (LA). Local authorities should support them to access local PPE markets and available stock locally, including through coordinating the redistribution of available supplies between settings according to priority needs.
Use Outdoor Spaces – Teachers are encouraged to use outdoor spaces for learning where possible, especially for PE.
Classroom Lunch Breaks – To avoid overcrowding in lunch rooms, schools should consider bringing food into classrooms and allowing pupils to eat at their desks, rather than creating a cross-contamination of bubbles and groups in a main lunchroom.
Office Space – Teachers should avoid congregating in shared office spaces and staff rooms and these rooms should be well ventilated and at half capacity or less.
There is a dedicated helpline number for education and children’s social care related queries for anyone working in early years through to universities, plus parents. Please call 0800 046 8687 – 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday) or 10am to 4pm (Saturday to Sunday) – for any specific question not covered on this page.
Gov.uk – Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings
Gov.uk – Funding for Coronavirus