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No sharing of toys: Government unveils detailed plans for reopening primary schools on June 1

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Primary pupils could return to school in June.
Primary pupils could return to school in June.

No sharing of toys, removing everything from classrooms which can’t easily be washed or wiped and limiting the books and resources children take home.

These are just some of the latest guidelines sent to schools by the government as they attempt to prepare for the phased reopening of the county’s primaries.

The planning guide, published online on Thursday, is described as the ‘next level down of detail’ related to bringing back more children to classrooms since schools closed because of the coronavirus outbreak on March 20.

Alongside the children of key workers and vulnerable children, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils will be able to go back to school on June 1, after the half-term break. The plan is for all primary year groups to return before the summer holidays.

But the planning guide lays bare the extensive number of things headteachers and school staff will need to consider or put in place before welcoming back their first pupils.

A phased return of schools is planned from June .
A phased return of schools is planned from June .

Among the hygiene requirements are:

  • Lidded bins in classrooms where tissues and rubbish is double bagged
  • Soap and hot water in every toilet and if possible within classrooms
  • Regular and thorough cleaning of all ‘frequently touched surfaces’ each day.

Staff will also ‘need to explicitly teach and supervise health and hygiene arrangements such as handwashing, tissue disposal and toilet flushing’.

As previously reported, the guidelines set out plans for half classes of no more than 15 children - where contact is limited with other groups and staff within the school through staggered start, finish and break times - and social distancing will be maintained where possible.

Should staffing cover be an issue, the planning guide says, headteachers can use experienced teaching assistants to lead groups under the guidance of a teacher or borrow staff to cover from other schools whilst ensuring ‘cover is agreed on a weekly basis, not daily, to limit contacts’. And whilst most schools open for keyworker children have adopted staffing rotas, these too are now being discouraged.

There have been concerns expressed by parents about safety and the reasons behind the particular years groups chosen after Boris Johnson had announced plans to ease lockdown restrictions on Sunday, supported by more details to Parliament on Monday.

Primary pupils could return to school in June (34559271)
Primary pupils could return to school in June (34559271)

In relation to Year 6 pupils Thursday’s planning guide says it is unlikely that schools will be able to hold any of the traditional end-of-term celebrations ordinarily organised to mark the end of primary school, while visits or inductions to the children’s new secondary schools have also been scrapped. Instead the focus will be on preparing 10 and 11-year-olds for their move to secondary school both emotionally and academically.

For the youngest pupils, aged four, five and six, classrooms could also look and feel very different come June 1.

Staff are being encouraged to take away any resources that cannot be wiped clean, materials like modelling clays shouldn't be used, whilst children will also need to be discouraged from sharing toys, stationary and materials. Teachers will also be asked to discourage children from touching their faces or putting items in their mouths.

A phased return of schools is planned from June.
A phased return of schools is planned from June.

The guidance reads: “Resources for activities such as painting, sticking, cutting, small world play, indoor and outdoor construction activities should be washed before and after use and where possible, children should be discouraged from sharing these.”

Teaching staff will also be expected to wash their hands and surfaces 'before and after handling pupils' books' and the option for children to take home books from school, it says, will now be extremely limited.

Instead government planners suggest ‘stories, singing and playing outdoor games' will instead help children socialise and 'resettle into familiar everyday classroom routines’.

The government has confirmed that parents will be strongly encouraged to send their children back to school, but will not be fined if they do not.

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