None of your training prepared you for this. A quick corridor catch up with your colleague is now ill-advised, dropping off registers at the school office is a potential health hazard, and bubbles mean something far less fun than the name suggests.
COVID-19 prevention measures in your primary school are a tricky thing to get a handle on. The guidance is ever-changing, there’s a sea of misinformation out there. And most of all - you would need the powers of a Jedi to keep a group of excitable young children one/two metres apart...
No doubt you are already doing what you feasibly can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your school, but there are certain tips, tricks and tech tools that you may not have heard about yet, including the below:
1. Use this free expert guidance to deliver age-appropriate training
Of course, this is an anxiety-inducing time for many pupils, and the last thing you want to do is make them feel more uneasy. However, you can educate pupils on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a way that is age-appropriate.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends demonstrating the impact of hygiene measures through lighthearted exercises.
For instance, you could put some glitter in pupils’ hands, first ask them to wash with just water, then wash for 20 seconds with soap and water and notice the difference. You could also talk them through some high-risk scenarios and ask them to suggest ways to make them safer - such as a teacher sneezing into their hand then shaking hands with another teacher.
The WHO also recommends asking children to practice keeping apart by stretching their arms out or ‘flapping their wings’ - this should allow enough space between them and their friends. You can view more WHO guidance here.
And for further social distancing training - you could use apps like Social Distancing Trainer - a free app which as the name suggests - trains pupils and staff on these measures through augmented reality.
2. Make outdoor learning safe and fun
Weather permitting of course - outdoor activities can allow children to learn in a more spacious and safe environment than the classroom.
Our colleagues at The Key, recommend using plastic cones or painted/chalk lines to divide up large spaces so more than one bubble group can use them. As mentioned before - explain to the children about why staying within these markings is important for their safety.
Remember that pupils and staff will also need to be able to access hand-washing facilities from the outside area. Bird’s Bush Primary School in Tamworth only had one sink for three class groups, so teacher Sharon Barnes set up additional hand washing stations using a small table, water butt filled with warm water, a washing-up bowl and soap.
And when it comes to activity ideas - take advantage of Amazon’s free online edition of “Games To Play Whilst Socially Distancing”. There are 101 socially-distanced outdoor games covering the entire curriculum, as well as indoor activities in the (likely) event of a downpour.
3. Optimise staff safety with cloud technology
Like I said, everyday activities such as dropping the register off at the school office or passing a paper report on to a colleague - are now considered a potential health hazard. Luckily cloud-based technology has enabled schools to uphold new social distancing measures in more ways than one.
If you have a cloud-based MIS - staff are able to access the system remotely, from wherever they are. This reduces the need for staff to travel between offices and classrooms to get the information they need. To give you an example - ScholarPack’s new “Bubble” feature allows you to centrally see which registers have been taken, and the number of pupils on-site at one time - eliminating the need for a paper registers or notes that need to be dropped off in person.
The same can be said for collaborative tools like GoogleDocs and video conferencing software like Zoom. Even though many of your teams may still be in school - reduce the need for large in-person meetings by hosting video calls instead.
4. Keep parents at a safe distance using apps
As you well know, face-to-face interaction with parents now needs to be kept to a minimum. Fortunately there are many tools that can help you create a safe social distance whilst enabling some kind of business as usual.
As with staff, video conferencing apps like Zoom and Google Hangouts allow any parents’ evenings or PTA meetings to be had online.
And transactional activity can be both cashless and contactless using apps like ParentPay. ParentPay allows parents to order and pay for school dinners online, and also facilitates wider payments for clubs, uniform and school photos. This minimises the need for cash payments and parents queuing outside the office. And even better - if you’re a ScholarPack customer, ParentPay integrates seamlessly with your MIS.
5. Maintain social distancing at the school gates
Social distancing at the school gates, on the other hand, is a trickier thing to establish. Many schools are putting staggered start and finish times in place and splitting up the entry points to the school. And some schools are using Kura - a specialist school transport app that has made school bus transport a potentially safer alternative to being dropped off by parents.
Kura has updated its technology so that schools can track and trace all passengers, and contain any potential spread of the virus - something that is more difficult to manage at school gates crowded by parents and children.
The company also makes sure all touchpoints on the vehicle are sanitised between journeys and that passengers are kept two metres apart through using larger vehicles and more frequent shuttle services. Parents can use the app to be kept up to date with all the latest safety measures, and see when their child has safely boarded and alighted the vehicle.
As I said, getting your COVID-19 prevention measures in place is a complex task for school leaders and their teams, and no doubt you’re already doing a great job. But hopefully the above resources will give you some new ideas and help you feel less alone in this challenge.
I’ll be back in the coming weeks with more sector insights. In the meantime - the team at ScholarPack wish you all the best as you safely reintegrate your school community.
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