While many of us are looking forward to starting a new term of school or uni (especially after having been stuck indoors for most of the year), safety is understandably a big concern – given we’ve spent most of the year dealing with a global pandemic. To help give you some peace of mind, we’ve broken down what schools and universities are doing to lessen the risk of catching COVID-19 in accordance with government guidelines* – together with some tips on what else you can do to protect yourself and others.
What Are Schools Doing?
Given local lockdowns are happening in different areas, the rules might be different depending on where your school is. In most cases, your school can remain fully open with everyone being required to wear masks in communal areas. However, if your school is in a lockdown zone, it will have a “rota system” in place where you will have remote lessons at home for two weeks, and be back at school for two weeks (providing you have no symptoms), then back at home etc.
In serious cases of a breakout, schools can instruct everyone to stay at home for remote learning, with only vulnerable children and those of key workers allowed to come in to attend classes.
When it comes to facemasks, primary school children do not have to wear them. In secondary schools pupils, teachers are visitors can be required to wear masks in communal areas such as corridors, the canteen and assembly hall.
Pupils will also be grouped into ‘bubbles’ so social distancing remains in place, with staggered break and lunchtimes, so the different bubbles are kept apart. Different bubbles also can’t share any books or equipment. If any student is showing symptoms, the whole bubble will be required to self-isolate. Pupils will also sit spaced out and facing forward in classes following social distancing. Teachers aren’t restricted to one particular bubble but have to stay at the front of the classroom during lessons to limit coming into close contact with anyone.
What Are Universities Doing?
As with schools, government guidelines vary depending on where your university is and how badly your area is affected. Among the things you can expect are lectures to be taking place online, socially-distanced seminars, as well as smaller or even ‘virtual’ freshers events and club meetings. Other measures can include smaller teaching groups and one-way entrance and exit points in buildings. Government guidelines have stated that every student will have access to in-person teaching providing it can be offered safely.
You’ll be probably required to wear a mask or face covering while on campus and be asked not to travel outside of your local area (if you do, you might have to self-isolate when you return)
For those who are moving away from home, university accommodation will be open – and if for any reason students must self-isolate at home due to lockdown, they should not be charged for that lockdown period.
Tips to Keep Yourself & Others Safe
Wash your hands and use sanitizer regularly, especially if you’ve been outside – and don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. You should always wash your hands before eating, but this is especially important at the moment.
Keep tissues handy to catch coughs and sneezes so as not to spread any infection.
Your school or university will advise where you should wear a mask. Make sure you follow these guidelines and try to keep a spare mask in your bookbag (in case you lose or forget your main one).
If you feel hot, develop a cough or feel unwell, let staff know immediately.
If you’re worried about infecting your household, change out of your school uniform or college clothes as soon as you get home and put them straight into the washing machine. Try to avoid touching door handles or surfaces (disinfecting where necessary) and have a shower at the earliest opportunity.