Is it safe for my child to go back to school?
Guidance indicates that there is very little transmission of the virus from child to child or between children and adults. The main priority for all our schools will be to put measures into place to look after your children's safety and wellbeing using national guidance, and to ensure that they can continue to learn and make good progress. Please be assured that the health and safety of our children and staff is our top priority.
What is the scientific evidence for reopening?
The decision to reopen schools is based on scientific evidence that suggests that the virus is sufficiently under control and that transmission levels relating to children and young people are low enough to reopen. Evidence indicates that by putting measures in place to keep children and staff at a safe distance from each other and making sure everything is kept clean and hygienic - schools can return safely. You can also read a summary of scientific evidence about coronavirus relating to re-opening schools and early learning and childcare settings from the Scottish Government.
What will schools be like when they reopen?
To keep everybody safe, our schools will be making some changes to the way they operate. School staff will take time to ensure children and young people are supported to understand any changes. Changes may vary from school to school as they will often relate to the layout of a school building. We are working with our Head Teachers and their teams to adapt approaches to learning, which will ensure adherence to health and safety protocols.
What will Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) be like?
Scottish Government have lifted some of the restrictions in their guidance issued on 30 June - and we can now plan for up to 30 children in a group with appropriate number of adults. There is no social distancing for children but adults are to remain 2m apart. Whilst blended placements are now possible supported by increased cleaning regimes, the new guidance recommends limiting the number of settings that a child attends.
Local Authority nurseries will operate on a 2 full day basis and your setting will be in touch with you to confirm arrangements. East Lothian Council is reviewing all allocations to see where any offer can be extended. We are committed to working towards 1140 hours as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.
What additional cleaning will be in place to support infection control?
The council has funded an increase in cleaning in all of our schools - each school will have increased cleaning at least twice per day which is required by the Scottish Government. Cleaning will also have a focus on regular ‘touch points’ such as door handles. We have invested in specialist cleaning resources including ‘foggers’ for each of our schools which have been proven to provide safe and effective protection from COVID-19. East Lothian Council has supplied each school with a fogger which will be used once per day after the school is cleaned. The fogger is not a substitute for cleaning and is intended as an additional mitigation on top of the rigorous cleaning measures in place. The disinfectant used is appropriate and safe for schools’ application and has been risk assessed in line with COSHH. The safety of our children and staff is our main priority and the council will continue to review the arrangements in place to ensure that we can mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
These measures will support the ongoing health and safety of our children, young people and staff along with the ongoing need for good hygiene including washing hands thoroughly on a regular basis and making use of the hand sanitiser which will be available in all schools.
- additional cleaning has taken place in all schools prior to the new school session
- cleaning materials will be available for use in every classroom as required
- hand sanitiser will be available throughout the school and will be regularly topped up
- electrostatic ‘fogging’ of spaces– effective for 48hrs
- regular ‘touch-point’ cleaning
- enhanced toilet area cleaning
Please note that these arrangements are subject to change should further specific guidance be issued by the Scottish Government.
What ventilation measures will be put in place?
Classroom doors and windows will be open as far as practical, to allow for maximum ventilation in our school buildings, unless they are fire doors.
We are following Scottish Government guidance on heating and ventilation with advice for schools on balancing the need for increased ventilation and maintaining a minimum temperature of 16 degrees. We have increased the heating in our schools to take account of any variations in temperature as a result of the windows being open.
Use of outdoor spaces will be encouraged in all our schools and are part of the planning for schools re-opening.
Are outside doors being left open for ventilation? Is that a security risk?
Security of our schools is of paramount importance. Full risk assessments are carried out in the case of doors being left open. This does not apply to fire doors, which must remain closed.
Will staff be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Staff in our schools and ELC settings will not generally need to use PPE unless they would normally need to (for example, in a chemistry lesson), even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres from others. PPE is only needed in a very small set of circumstances. This might include where the care of children involves two members of staff who require to be in close contact for more than 15 minutes or where tasks already involve the use of PPE, in which case schools will continue to make this available to staff. Staff and children may wear face coverings if they wish to do so.
What is the guidance/expectations for children and young people in terms of hand washing/use of hand sanitisers/supporting infection control?
Schools will follow the Scottish Government guidance. Handwashing will be encouraged on entry to the school building before and after any activity, such as meal times, break times and sporting activities. If children or young people have trouble washing their hands properly, help will be available. Where handwashing facilities are not immediately accessible, then hand sanitisers will be available.
What risk assessments have been carried out to ensure it is safe for children to return?
Draft detailed risk assessments were compiled before the school break and prior to the First Minister announcement that all children and young people will return by 18 August. Head Teachers and school colleagues are revisiting these risk assessments, revising where necessary and they will be signed off on Monday 10 August as a priority so the school can re-open. Risk assessments may also be needed for individual children or members of staff who had been previously shielding or for whom there is a serious health concern.