COVID-19 Health & Safety
COVID-19 Health & Safety
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for educational settings - GOV.UK for information on health and safety, and what to do if someone develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) whilst at an educational setting
Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings - GOV.UK - Guidance for education and childcare settings on how to implement protective measures. updated 1st June
The government have produced a guide for employers on 8th April
Please also see the government guidance on cleaning for non-healthcare settings.
Public Health South East Guidance
A Public Health FAQ has been put together by a working group of representatives across the South East region from Local Authority departments of Public health and Education, Department for Education and Public Health England.
It's not intended to replace or simplify national guidance, but to add colour to less straightforward scenarios that settings face on a day-to-day basis.
This document is intended to supplement a setting’s risk assessment and does not overrule any decisions that a head or local authority have already made. It simply aims to help explain risks in an infection control context. Educational settings should not feel that they have to change practice in light of these FAQs and should follow their own judgement.
COVID-19 Testing for School Staff and their households
Priority access to testing is available to all essential workers and their households. This includes anyone involved in education, childcare or social work - including both public and voluntary sector workers, as well as foster carers. Essential workers, and those who live with them, can book tests directly online.
Education, childcare and children’s social care settings, as employers, can obtain access to a secure online employer referral portal, through which they can upload a full list of names of self-isolating essential workers who need a test.
All children, young people, and other learners, as well as their households, also have access to a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Visit the guidance on coronavirus testing and how to arrange to have a test, or contact NHS 119 via telephone if you do not have internet access.
If anyone develops symptoms, they should be tested.
- If they test negative, other members of their household can stop self-isolating. If they feel well and no longer have symptoms similar to coronavirus (COVID-19), they can stop self isolating. They could still have another virus, such as a cold or flu - in which case it is still best to avoid contact with other people until they are better.
- If they test positive, they should follow the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Stay at home guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and education and childcare settings should follow guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings. Residential settings should follow isolation guidance for residential settings
Buckinghamshire Public Health team advice for all staff - If you register for testing but your symptoms are worsening please consider whether it is safe to drive to a testing site. In case of doubt, why not consider asking a member of your household to drive you, or choose the home testing option.
Please see Coronavirus (COVID-19): getting tested for the details
Social distancing / bubbles in educational establishments
What does effective social distancing involve in practice in educational settings?
As much as possible, children, young people and staff should be spaced apart at all times.
- sitting children at desks that are far apart
- ensuring everyone queues and eats further apart than normal
- keeping apart when in the playground or doing any physical exercise
- visiting the toilet one after the other
- staggering break times
- putting guidelines on the floor in corridors
- avoiding unnecessary staff gatherings
Social distancing measures should also be in place when providing meals, or food for collection, from families of free school meal pupils not in school.
Where possible, adults should space out from one another and where possible encourage the children to do so too. If you have small number of pupils attending your provision, halls could be used and whilst the weather is good outdoor spaces. Leaving the doors open for fresh air also helps.
This approach also applies to further education settings, including for learners who may be taking part in practical learning. Clear messaging to young people attending the setting about the purpose of social distancing, and personal hygiene, is likely to be particularly important.
Teachers working across more than one bubble
Whilst the government guidance is not explicit about this, the Buckinghamshire Public Health team advise that it isn’t ideal. One teacher being part of two different bubbles creates an epidemiological link between what are supposed to be isolated groups. The teacher (who is the person most likely to get sick if they catch COVID-19) would be at double the risk, being exposed to twice the usual number of pupils. If the teacher were to develop symptoms then both bubbles would need a new teacher, exposing them to a brand new adult. If the teacher tested positive then both bubbles would have to self-isolate for 14 days.
It is therefore preferable that teachers do not work across bubbles; one teacher per bubble is the best arrangement.
However, we understand that for some schools this may be the only way to facilitate getting children back into school. In recognition of that, and the importance of resuming the educational and safeguarding benefits of school for as many children as possible, it is not officially banned by the national guidance or local policy.
Administering first aid when social distancing
The guidance acknowledges that social distancing will not always be possible with young children, purely because they will not be diligent about practicing it through a lack of understanding. First aid is another reason that exceptions may need to be made with children.
Protective clothing of any sort over and above what would normally be used (e.g. disposable gloves when dealing with a bleeding cut) with individuals who are not showing any symptoms is not recommended. Good hand washing and regular cleaning of surfaces is the best approach to take.
Social distancing in early years settings where children are very young
The government acknowledge that social distancing for settings with very young children will be harder to maintain. Staff should implement the recommended measures as far as they are able, whilst ensuring children are kept safe and well cared for.
Staff should pay particular attention to handwashing before and after supporting children who need help with nappy changing, toileting or eating, as well as avoiding touching their own face whilst at work. Teachers and other staff may want to use age and developmentally appropriate ways to encourage children to follow social distancing, hand-washing and other guidance, including through games, songs and stories. They should encourage parents/carers to reinforce these messages at home, by asking them to remind their children.
As much as possible, settings should seek to prevent the sharing of food, drink, utensils, equipment and toys. Equipment, toys and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected more frequently.
Social distancing in Alternative Provision (AP)
For AP settings – including pupil referral units, AP free schools and AP academies – the DfE ask is the same as that for all schools: that AP providers work with local authorities, and the mainstream schools at which many AP pupils are registered, to consider the best way to support those vulnerable children, and those of critical workers who cannot remain safely at home. This should include keeping AP settings open where it is safe and feasible to do so.
As much as possible, social distancing should be adhered to and class or group sizes should be small to make this easier. Staff should use simple language to explain social distancing, and reiterate and reinforce key messages. Safe routines for access to toilets, hand-washing and break and lunch times should be put in place. Teaching resources can be used to aid understanding.
A risk assessment may need to be undertaken, if it is deemed that a child may not be able to follow social distancing instructions, to determine what mitigations need to be put in place and whether, in rare circumstances, they should stay at home. For those children with a social worker, our expectation is that they should be in school unless a risk assessment concludes they will be safer at home.
Personal Protective Equipment
Do Staff need Personal protective equipment (PPE) including face coverings and face masks?
Buckinghamshire Public Health flowchart to explain the use of PPE in educational settings
Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended. Face coverings (to protect other people) may be beneficial for short periods indoors where there is a risk of close social contact with people you do not usually meet and where social distancing and other measures cannot be maintained, for example on public transport or in some shops. This does not apply to schools or other education settings. Schools and other education or childcare settings should therefore not require staff, children and learners to wear face coverings.
Changing habits, cleaning and hygiene are effective measures in controlling the spread of the virus. Face coverings (or any form of medical mask where instructed to be used for specific clinical reasons) should not be worn in any circumstance by those who may not be able to handle them as directed (for example, young children, or those with special educational needs or disabilities) as it may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission.
The majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, even if they are not always able to maintain a distance of 2 metres from others. PPE is only needed in a very small number of cases including:
- children, young people and students whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs should continue to receive their care in the same way
- if a child, young person or other learner becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and needs direct personal care until they can return home. A fluid-resistant surgical face mask should be worn by the supervising adult if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. If contact with the child or young person is necessary, then disposable gloves, a disposable apron and a fluid-resistant surgical face mask should be worn by the supervising adult. If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn
Education, childcare and children’s social care settings and providers should use their local supply chains to obtain PPE. Where this is not possible, and there is unmet urgent need for PPE in order to operate safely, they may approach their nearest local resilience forum. Buckinghamshire Council have secured limited sets of PPE (masks, gloves, aprons and visors) for all educational settings in the county.
The use of PPE by schools has been clarified in the updated (16th June) Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care.
The Buckinghamshire Public Health Team advice that good hand washing and respiratory hygiene is the most effective way of reducing the spread of infection:
- washing your hands more often - with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
- cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
The advice for schools, colleges and childcare settings is to follow steps on social distancing, handwashing and other hygiene measures, and cleaning of surfaces.
Guidance on obtaining PPE, including NHS guidance on supply of PPE, what to do if you have a shortage of PPE, donning and doffing PPE and general principles about usage can be found here: Personal protective equipment (PPE) and Infection Prevention and Control Procedures | Buckinghamshire Council
Government guidance can be found here Guidance to educational settings about Covid 19
Staff supporting pupils with SEND
Some children, and young people with special educational needs, may be unable to follow social distancing guidelines, or require personal care support. In these circumstances, staff need to increase their level of self-protection, such as minimising close contact (where appropriate), cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and carrying out more frequent handwashing.
The government have published guidance for special schools, specialist colleges, local authorities and any other settings managing children and young people with education, health and care plans, including those with complex needs. This covers recommendations for educational settings, working with local areas and families, on how to assess risks in supporting children and young people
Childcare practitioners do not need PPE. They should care for children as normal, although increasing the frequency of handwashing (and always doing so before and after, for example, feeding children or changing nappies) and cleaning of surfaces and toys. Soft toys should not be shared between children. If a child displays symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), they should not come to the setting, or should be sent home with their parents/carers if symptoms arise during the day. Staff should clean as normal after this.
Ultimately good respiratory hygiene (catch it, bin it, kill it) and hand hygiene are the key behaviours to reduce it spreading between people.
Daily cleaning regimes
We recommend that all educational settings follow the Public Health England (PHE) guidance on cleaning for non-healthcare settings.
Where healthcare, and certain personal care support, is delivered within settings (particularly special schools), then additional measures may apply: see PHE guidance.
Settings should clean and disinfect equipment, toys and surfaces more regularly. This includes keyboards, mouse, tables, chairs, door handles, light switches and bannisters.
Deep cleaning is not necessary on an ongoing basis. Clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces more often than usual, using your standard cleaning products.
Staff, children, young people and families should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal, including on arrival at the setting, before and after eating, and after sneezing or coughing.
Staff should supervise young children to ensure they wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water (or hand sanitiser if soap is not available or feasible in the particular situation) and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues. Bins for tissues should be emptied throughout the day.
Consider how to encourage young children to learn and practise these habits through games, songs and repetition.
Some children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities may require additional support in following public health advice, or may find frequent handwashing distressing. Staff will know where this is likely to be the case, and how they can best support individual children and young people.
Why is handwashing advised over hand sanitiser?
Soap and water, and regular handwashing for at least 20 seconds, is the best way of staying safe. Handwashing with soap employs mechanical action that loosens bacteria and viruses from the skin, rinsing them into the drain. Drying hands afterwards makes the skin less hospitable to the virus.
Hand sanitiser can be effective if soap is not available, or the situation makes using soap less feasible (for example, when outside), but using hand sanitiser provides none of the virus-destroying friction that rubbing your hands together and rinsing with water provides.
It is fine to wear jewellery as normal, provided handwashing guidance is being followed.
Staff/Pupils - Showing Symptoms and Confirmed Cases
Please see Public Health England flowchart - what they to do if you are made aware of suspected or confirmed cases among staff or pupils.
What happens if someone becomes unwell at an educational or childcare setting?
If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in an education or childcare setting, they must be sent home and advised to follow the COVID-19: guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection guidance.
If a child is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door, depending on the age of the child and with appropriate adult supervision if required. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. If it is not possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people.
If they need to go to the bathroom while waiting to be collected, they should use a separate bathroom if possible. The bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else.
PPE should be worn by staff caring for the child while they await collection if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained (such as for a very young child or a child with complex needs).
In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.
If a member of staff has helped someone who was unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves (and in which case, a test is available) or the child subsequently tests positive (see ‘What happens if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus in a setting?’ below). They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell. Cleaning the affected area with normal household disinfectant after someone with symptoms has left will reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people. See the COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings guidance.
What happens if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus in a setting?
When a child, young person or staff member develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus, they should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 7 days. Their fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days. All staff and students who are attending an education or childcare setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus, and are encouraged to get tested in this scenario.
Where the child, young person or staff member tests negative, they can return to their setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation.
Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class or group within their childcare or education setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class or group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms.
As part of the national test and trace programme, if other cases are detected within the cohort or in the wider setting, Public Health England’s local health protection teams will conduct a rapid investigation and will advise schools and other settings on the most appropriate action to take. In some cases a larger number of other children, young people may be asked to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure – perhaps the whole class, site or year group. Where settings are observing guidance on infection prevention and control, which will reduce risk of transmission, closure of the whole setting will not generally be necessary.
Reporting of confirmed cases
RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) and COVID-19
If an employee has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure to work; there is a requirement under RIDDOR to report it to the Health and Safety Executive as a reportable disease. There is also a requirement if a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to the coronavirus.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have published guidance to employers on the reporting of work related COVID cases see below.
To flowchart attached guides Managers/Headteachers through the reporting process, however if you have any queries please contact the health and safety team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Health and Safety Questions
Do we have to have first aiders on site to open?
Ideally there should be the provision of at least one appointed First Aider on school premises regardless of their level of qualification at this time. In some cases more than one may be required but this will be based on the schools assessment of their first aid needs. It is the responsibility of individual schools to assess whether their level of first aid provision is adequate.
If however this cannot be achieved, the school are to contact the Emergency Services for assistance in the event of an emergency.
From the 16th March, The Health and Safety Executive have recognised that it is reasonable and practical to extend the validity of current certificates by up to 3 months if people are unable to attend due to Coronavirus. They will also be reviewing the matter over the coming months.
Schools must communicate their arrangements for first-aid to all employees, especially if there has been a change in how this would be accessed in an emergency.
See the Early Years page for more information on first aid certification in the Early Years
How else can Education Settings help to reduce the spread of the virus?
Education settings can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by reminding everyone of the Public Health advice:
- tell children, parents, carers or any visitors, such as suppliers, not to visit the education or childcare setting if they are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
- consider how children arrive at the education or childcare setting and reduce any unnecessary travel on coaches, buses or public transport
- ensure class sizes reflect the numbers of teaching staff available and are kept as small as possible
- stagger lunch times, break times and the movement of pupils around the school to reduce large groups of children gathering
- discourage parents from gathering at school gates
Will contact tracing be in place in educational and childcare settings?
The government is developing a new national test and trace programme. This will bring together an app, expanded web and phone-based contact tracing, and swab testing for those with potential coronavirus symptoms. This programme will play an important role in helping to minimise the spread of coronavirus in the future. It will also include more traditional methods of contact tracing if a child, young person or parent tests positive. This could include, for example, direct discussion with parents and schools or colleges on recent contacts.
The government is recruiting 18,000 contact tracers to support contact tracing and will recruit more if needed. They will play an important part in tracing the contacts of those with coronavirus, including children.
Should educational settings ask parents/carers to report pupils’ temperatures at the start of each day?
Educational settings should reiterate to parents/carers the need to follow the advice on coronavirus (COVID-19), including the whole household entering 14 days of self-isolation if anyone in the household develops a fever or a new, continuous cough. They are advised to follow the staying at home guidance.
Parents/carers and schools do not need to take children’s temperatures every morning, but should be vigilant about signs of a temperature.
Can you advise on what to do when you get home to minimise infection to your loved ones?
The government advice is that there is no need for stringent cleaning of people or clothes following a day in an educational or childcare setting. This is only required by medical and care professionals providing intimate care to people with coronavirus (COVID-19).
The advice for settings is to follow steps on social distancing (as well as possible), handwashing and other hygiene measures including cleaning of surfaces, including frequently cleaning and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products. Posters, leaflets and other materials are available.
The Buckinghamshire Public Health team understand that some staff may want to change, clean and wash their clothes. Clothes can be washed per the normal manufacturers’ guidance.
Do I need to publish my Health and Safety Risk Assessment on my school website?
No, risk assessments do not need to be published.