A guide for school leaders
It was made clear earlier this week that schools in Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are unlikely to return this side of the summer holidays. However, as laid out by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and soon followed closely by the Department for Education, primary schools in England are being asked to prepare for return as early as June.
But what will school look like post-COVID-19, and what measures will education professionals be taking?
Is it too early to re-open schools?
There are mounting concerns over how school leaders can ensure the safeguarding of their pupils whilst also providing a safe working environment for their staff.
In his speech on Sunday 10th May Prime Minister, Boris Johnson stated that there was an 'ambition' to return to school, but education professionals say they need proper guidance and support from the government to safely re-open. Jenny Jones, chairman of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, who oversees local authority schools had this to say:
Safeguarding staff and pupils
Let's take a look at the important factors that education professionals will need to consider before re-opening the school gates.
- Reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups
Whenever schools re-open, the return process is likely to involve a phased approach. Returning pupils by year group will help schools maintain a good level of social distancing to help ensure the health and safety of both staff and pupils.
Class sizes are also expected to be limited to 15 pupils, which will be particularly difficult for large secondary schools across the UK. To facilitate this, schools are being asked to utilise other spaces that they have available, and in some cases, teachers may be asked to move classrooms, instead of pupils, to help control traffic in communal school areas.
- Staggered break and lunchtimes, as well as drop-offs and pick-ups
Staggering break times will give schools more control over high-traffic areas, and ensure that social distancing guidelines are adhered to. To help catering teams implement a 'Grab & Go' food offering, schools are looking to pre-order software and introducing collection points to the dining hall as a solution to help control the number of pupils within one area.
- Increasing the frequency of cleaning
As well as maintaining a high level of cleanliness in the school building with thorough and frequent sanitisation of any shared objects, education professionals will also be tasked with encouraging pupils to increase the number of times a day that they wash their hands.
But how can teachers encourage pupils, especially young pupils in primary schools, to social distance and increase cleanliness? Several measures have been suggested to help minimise the risks with schools now looking to implement cleaning stations around high traffic areas such as classroom entrances, and food outlets. There are also discussions around government and NHS sanctioned packs for schools to include; teacher cards, posters, reward charts, stickers, and animated videos. You can find an example supplied by NHS Scotland here.
School lunch after lockdown
Whilst encouraging less contact within the school grounds, school leaders will be looking at changing their lunch service to adhere to these new rules. So what does this mean for school catering staff?
It could mean a phased approach to lunchtimes with certain classes or year groups eating their lunch at different times and locations which would limit the number of pupils within the dining hall at one time. Catering teams are also altering their current menus; opting for a reduced menu to offer a Grab & Go lunch service.
However you are restructuring your catering offering, your software will need to be flexible enough to adapt. Let's take a look at how technology will help schools restructure their catering offering and safeguard pupils.
- Contactless lunches
Although schools across the UK utilise some form of cashless catering technology, some schools still rely on outdated forms of payments such as cash which requires a physical transaction in the action of passing money and change between catering staff and pupils. To remove cash and the associated risks from schools, there will undoubtedly be more reliance on online payment software.
Schools in England are already switching their biometric software that requires pupils to touch a fingerprint reader to other forms of contactless identification. Whilst some schools are opting for a pre-ordering app to assist their Grab & Go service and remove transactions entirely, others are simply opting for contactless cards. If you can't make the switch before your pupils return, we recommend sanitising the hardware between each transaction and setting up sanitation stations beside areas that still require contact such as the canteen point of sale.
- Pre-ordering and collection points
Just as the classroom layout is changing, school catering teams will need to alter their service to deliver speed, whilst ensuring social distancing.
Schools across the UK are implementing pre-ordering software to remove the need for contact entirely. The use of a pre-ordering mobile app offers secondary schools the same speed of service that they are used to, whilst allowing schools to control the flow of traffic within the dining hall. It means that pupils can order their lunch straight from their mobile phone (no contact) and then pick it up from a designated collection point to ensure social distancing. The software is even flexible enough to work with a delivery operation if your school decides to go down this route.
For truly contactless lunch service, we recommend a solution that offers the following three functionalities; removal of cash from your school (online payment provision), pre-ordering software that allows pupils to order and pick up their lunch with no contact (pre-order app), and contactless cards to replace cash and other physical transactions.
Are you wondering how your school could implement collection points, pre-ordering software, or general changes to your catering operations? We're here to help.
Call: 0333 014 3065
Schools across the UK: What you need to know
Whilst we wait for further detail and guidance from the Department for Education on the return to school, we have gathered the latest government news and resources for education professionals.
- England: Boris Johnson stated that "At the earliest by June 1 - after half term - we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6." In his speech on Sunday, 10 May he also said: "Our ambition is that secondary pupils facing exams next year will get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays."
- In Wales, the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: "schools will not return to normal on June 1".
- Scotland is planning for a phased return of schools but says that will only happen "when safe to do so".
- In Northern Ireland, Education Minister Peter Weir has spoken of a possible phased return of schools in September.
- You can download OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, here.