As schools gear up to phased return this month, staff will be busy making plans to minimise the risk to pupils and staff alike under some key headings:
- carrying out a risk assessment before opening to more children and young people – the assessment should directly address risks associated with coronavirus so that sensible measures can be put in place to minimise those risks for children, young people and staff
- making sure that children and young people do not attend if they or a member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus
- promoting regular hand washing for 20 seconds with running water and soap or use of sanitiser and ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the catch it, bin it, kill it approach
- cleaning more frequently to get rid of the virus on frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, handrails, tabletops, play equipment and toys
- minimising contact through smaller classes or group sizes and altering the environment as much as possible, such as changing the layout of classrooms
- reducing mixing between groups through timetable changes, such as staggered break times or by introducing staggered drop-off and collection times
In normal times, the sales team at Ambic are used to offering our expertise in relation to furniture quality and suitability in different settings, room layout and storage solutions, washroom and toilet facilities and a myriad of other issues related to refurbishing school facilities and teaching environments. Now we have the added the challenge of helping our clients make informed choices regarding the changing nature of classroom teaching and the furniture and equipment they’ll need to make those changes. The general scientific advice is that we may have to live with a degree of social distancing and increased hygiene awareness for some significant time to come.
It’s safe to say that expecting early years pupils to remain 2 meters apart is probably going to be problematic, so where it’s not possible to do so, there are some general expectations of schools under the following hierarchy:
- avoiding contact with anyone with symptoms
- frequent hand cleaning and good respiratory hygiene practices
- regular cleaning of settings
- minimising contact and mixing
So what are some practical considerations that schools may have to take into account as the gradual opening of schools takes place over the coming months?
Decreased Class Sizes – class sizes will most likely be expected to be no more than 15 pupils. This may mean halving existing classes and rearranging the classrooms so that each smaller group has access to its own resources. Where possible, students should be spaces apart as much as possible which may mean having individual desks or changing the layout of classroom tables to maximise the distance between students sharing the same table. It may mean dividing classrooms with partitions to encourage the separation of the groups and as the sharing of resources and equipment is not encouraged, each group will need storage to accommodate the safe and hygienic storage of school resources that can be subject to a regular cleaning regime. Each group will remain together throughout the school day to prevent unnecessary mixing with other groups, including taking their lunch together in a dedicated area.
Our classroom tables with single tray storage are an example of how students can be separated and still have access to their personal school resources without too much moving around the classroom and having to access common storage areas.
Bespoke storage facilities – Some thought will be needed with regards to the storage of school resources and equipment. Government advice is that the sharing of equipment between learning groups should be discouraged. Ideally each reduced class group should have their own resources allocated to them which can be stored away when not in use with thorough cleaning and disinfecting between uses. Furniture such as mobile storage units and arts and crafts mobile stations will allow easy movement of equipment which is kept sanitised and can be wheeled back into a specific dedicated storage cupboard or small room once cleaned ready for the next use.
Washing Stations – There will be a requirement for increased hand washing throughout the school day as new hygiene practices become part of the everyday school life. Students will be encouraged to wash their hands on arrival in a classroom setting, after activities and using school equipment, and prior to entering dining areas at lunchtime. This is will required an increase in the number of washing stations throughout the school, ideally inside classrooms and at or near the entrance to common dining areas. Ambic have many years of experience in manufacturing bespoke washroom and toilet facilities utilising the best quality materials as fabricators of solid grade laminate (Trespa) surfaces.
Dining areas – Where possible, students may be encouraged to bring their own packed lunch to school and these should again ideally be kept in a controlled environment. Lunchbox and Snack trollies can be used to store the learning groups’ pack lunches within a refrigerated cold room and then easily brought out to each small group in either the classroom or a dedicated dining area
Most schools were already struggling with making the best use of limited space before the current situation so maximising available room space is going to take some intuitive thinking and expertise. This is where we think we can really help schools, nurseries and universities get back up and running with our expert advice and guidance. Whether it is a quick reorganisation of the classroom with some partitions and new bespoke loose furniture to support the new layout, or a full refurbishment and redesign of the available space, we can help you ensure your school is safe for students and teaching staff to return to and that it will meet the test of time with regards to future requirements for a safe learning environment.
If you would like to arrange a free no obligation survey or would just like to speak to one of our sales team for some friendly advice, please give us a call on 0191 389 1888 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org