Schools to scrap social distancing in September
Students return to the classrooms while elementary schools are gradually reopening in the Covid 19 crisis - Jeremy Selwyn
Social distancing is not used in schools and "bubbles" are being expanded so that all students can return to their classes all day in September, the government will announce next week.
Students are not expected to be two or even one meter apart in the school building, as The Telegraph understands.
Instead, schools are asked to focus on limiting the extent to which children outside of their class or age group are mixed, and to introduce strict hygiene systems.
The solution to reopening schools is to "bubble" groups of children - as is the case with primaries - and is seen by the government as eliminating the need for social distancing.
The Prime Minister informed the Commons this week that elementary and secondary schools would reopen with "full attendance" in September, but declined to explain how this should be achieved.
His comments came when ministers were increasingly criticized for failing to reopen schools in front of shops, cinemas, theme parks and zoos.
Social distancing measures as a child learn at a designated table at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester - PA
"It doesn't look good if we hurry to open pubs and beer gardens while the vast majority of schools aren't open," one of the government's scientific advisers told The Telegraph.
The education minister will officially announce the arrangements for September next week, but on Wednesday a source familiar with the plans stated that there is now a consensus that "it will not be possible for schools to reopen to all students if." A meter or a meter plus social distance rule is applied ”.
Elementary schools are informed that their current “bubbles” can be enlarged by 15 students to include entire classes. In the meantime, secondary schools can be more flexible to form their bubbles, which could span an entire year.
This is an acknowledgment of the fact that secondary school students learn different subject combinations and are divided into different groups within the subjects, making it more difficult to always keep a class together.
The students' “bubbles” spend their lunch break and play time together, and can come to and from school at the same time to prevent them from mixing with other groups.
Students are still expected to adhere to social distance rules on the way to and from school and in local shops.
School hygiene systems include the promotion of regular hand washing and the introduction of improved cleaning systems that regularly wipe surfaces and door handles.
Children are also instructed to follow the mantra "catch it, am it, kill it" to stop germs from spreading, which means they should cough and sneeze into a handkerchief and then throw it away immediately.
In other parts of the UK, ministers have already outlined their plans to get schools back to normal. Earlier this week, Scottish Minister of Education John Swinney said schools would reopen on August 11 without physical distance, provided the spread of the coronavirus remains under control.
In the meantime, schools in Northern Ireland are slated to reopen on August 24th at a social distance of one meter instead of two.
Geoff Barton, secretary general of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the fixation on whether children need to stay two or three feet apart at school is a "red herring."
"In schools, children are at less risk of infection and the solution is blisters," he said, adding that the "conditions for cooperation" with Ministry of Education (DfE) officials are now focused on setting a class size limit.
Leora Cruddas, executive director of the Confederation of School Trusts, which represents academies, said that the idea of renting additional buildings such as town halls to allow students to spread out was "nonsense".
"People who don't know anything about education clearly speak about it," she said.
“The logistics of identifying other buildings that are safe and functional would be such a big task. Even if you had done all of this, where would you get all the extra teachers from? "
Ms. Cruddas said ministers should build a "coherent narrative" that builds public confidence that the "bubble" approach is safe for September instead of social distancing.
"At the moment, the primaries are not asked to use social distancing because of bubbles and other protective measures," she said. "That is not well understood."
Dr. Gavin Morgan, an educational psychology expert at University College London, who is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies, said the "biggest struggle" among ministers is to win the trust of parents and teachers.
He said the government should launch an information campaign to convince the public that schools can open safely without taking social distancing measures.
"A concerted effort must be made to demonstrate the fact that there is little or no risk of children developing coronavirus, but there is a profound risk of leaving school," said Dr. Morgan.
A DfE spokesman said: “We will release more information and guidance next week to help schools prepare for a full return in September. We work across governments and with the sector to ensure that these plans are fully implemented. "
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