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Schools to adopt subject bubbles for safe return

News | Published:

SEVERAL safety measures will come into play when schools return in just over a week’s time with subject bubbles, year group bubbles or individual class bubbles being formed.

Senior education advisor Laurie Baker has given details of the way schools will operate when they reopen on 8 June. (Montage)

Break times and lunch times will look to be staggered to ensure that no ‘unnecessary mixing’ between students and staff takes place, while continued awareness of social distancing, hygiene and symptoms will remain in force.

Senior education advisor Laurie Baker, whose role includes many of the responsibilities of director of education, said school would look and feel different, but school leaders and health officials have worked hard for a near-normal while ensuring the safety of all staff and children, ready for an 8 June opening.

‘We are in such a fortunate position compared to most education jurisdictions to be in an environment where the Public Health guidance gives us the opportunity to fully reopen all of our schools,’ she said.

‘The good thing is, as a complex social organisation, they will be there to do what they’re supposed to do and allow children back in, but there will be a much stronger focus wherever we possibly can to encourage our children and young people to socially distance and that will include as they move around the site, in the classroom, and in part of their learning activities.

‘There will be quite a lot of curricular adaptations, so we won’t have people working together closely to collaborate on a task.

‘Of course there won’t be contact sports as part of PE lessons and pupils will be maintained within their bubbles, whether that be subject bubbles or year group bubbles or individual class bubbles.’

The schools will be encouraging individuals to stay apart as much as possible to adhere to Public Health’s guidance to avoid any unnecessary mixing as much as possible.

‘In secondary schools many young people will need to move through various subject bubbles as part of their curriculum, which is fine but we’ll need to manage it very carefully,’ Mrs Baker added.

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‘In our primary schools, young people will remain in their class groups as far as possible, similarly in secondary for Key Stage 3, lessons will be within tutor groups if that is possible for the school to deliver the curriculum.

‘Our staff will be aware that they will need to provide supportive measures at break times and play times particularly, which we will look at staggering in order to limit the risk of unnecessary mixing between different pupil groups.’

In addition to social distancing, as one of non-pharmacological measures to protect children, the schools will promote good respiratory hygiene and any staff or children with symptoms are asked not to attend at all.

The school sites will also have regular cleans and children will spend time outside.

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However, if a new Covid-19 outbreak was to occur, Education, Sport & Culture president Matt Fallaize said they would follow Public Health guidance immediately.

‘If there is a deterioration in the island’s position and Public Health advice is that schools should not fully reopen or not be opened at all, we will have no hesitation at all immediately to put that advice into effect,’ he said.

‘The health and wellbeing of children is the priority – first, second and third – so all the decisions being made and to be made are based around the health of them.

‘If there is one case of Covid in one school then we would have to take Public Health professionals’ advice about whether the school would have to use new controlled measures or new cleaning routines or only using part of the school or any other measures, but there will be a very close dialogue with school leaders and our offices and Public Health officials over the next few weeks and we will make any changes necessary quickly to ensure the health of children is protected.’

There will still be some concerned parents who will be worried about sending their children back to school, despite the measures put in place.

Deputy Fallaize said the department would continue to take an understanding approach for the rest of this academic year but would hope by September to return to normal.

‘Certainly for the remainder of the summer term, so for the six-week period between schools returning and the end of the term, our office will take an understanding, compassionate and supportive point of view if any parent is concerned for Covid reasons,’ he said.

‘We do respect that there will be a small number of parents that will want to keep their children at home, I think there is a level of support for that but the Public Health advice was that schools could reopen on 8 June and it has been given widespread support.

‘We can’t speculate what the position will be in September because it will depend on the management of the virus at that point.

‘Hopefully we can continue to have improvement in the island’s situation to have some schools fully reopen and enable us to do more range of activities than we’re able to do from 8 June and it will be kept under review during the summer holidays.’

Year 11 and Year 13 students with exams have been told they will not be happening in the same way this year and will be contacted by their schools on at least a weekly basis and provided with materials that will support them through the transition to college and beyond.

Detailed operation guidance with head teachers will occur next week while discussions are continuing with union representatives.

Guernsey schools have been closed since 23 March, with the exception of those students classed as vulnerable and the children of key workers.

The independent colleges and the College of Further Education are set to return from this Monday.

Danielle Kenneally

By Danielle Kenneally
News reporter

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