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The return to the ‘new normal’ latest government COVID guidance for Schools

Since schools returned in March it has been made abundantly clear that the self-isolation guidance has had an impact on both staff and pupil mental health and wellbeing. That’s why many people and schools are overjoyed to receive the latest government advice on how schools should operate when returning to the classroom in September.

Here is a roundup of the latest advice:

  • Children under 18 will no longer be required to self-isolate.

“Regarding the SARS epidemic, stress scores for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were reported by parents to be 4 times higher in children quarantined than those not quarantined… Emerging evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK suggests similar trends that young people, in particular teenagers, in the UK are feeling more anxious than they did before the outbreak”

There are many issues that children and teenagers have been facing since the requirement to self-isolate has been in place such as loneliness and worries about the future, their education, academic pressures, and their careers.

Removing the requirement to self-isolate will be highly beneficial in ensuring students don’t miss out on valuable time with their friends, peers, and teachers. If a student has been notified by Track & Trace that they need to isolate, they will no longer have to do so and will be able to take a PCR test instead.

  • ‘Bubbles’ will no longer be required.

The rules regarding self-isolation due to a person in a bubble testing positive has led to high numbers of pupils and staff being off school for prolonged isolation periods.

Just last week 336,000 pupils were isolating due to covid related issues. Removing this requirement will ensure that staff can stay teaching and pupils won’t miss out on valuable learning. If a child test positive for Covid-19 they will have to isolate but their bubble will no longer have to isolate as well.

  • Face coverings will no longer be a requirement.

From September, face coverings will no longer be required in schools, on dedicated school transport, or on public transport. Face coverings will likely be recommended in communal areas if there is an outbreak at your school.

Whilst the removal of face coverings as a requirement will come as a controversial decision for many, we cannot deny the benefits of removing face masks in education. Facial recognition is something that was taken for granted in schools and the ability to recognise friends and teachers has been shown to be very important since it has been lacking.

Face masks also impair verbal and non-verbal communication. The ability to understand people when the bottom half of their mouth is covered is reduced either due to not being able to hear effectively or not having the benefit of lip reading. Students who have issues hearing or understanding physical cues will benefit from face masks being removed.

Finally, face masks hide emotional social cues. Studies have shown that smiling broadens cognition and thereby increases creative thinking (source). Not being able to see the bottom half of a teacher’s mouth makes it difficult to recognise their positive emotions which hinders students’ positive learning experience. Removing the masks will positively benefit students learning experience.

  • Outbreak management plan.

Schools are encouraged to develop an outbreak management plan to deal with increasing covid cases as and when they appear. This should always be a last resort; however, it is great to see the decisions put into the hands of the school.

“The removal of current restrictions in schools is a relief for many teachers, including myself. There is no doubt we still need to be cautious and ensure we are implementing strict cleanliness routines, however; it is difficult to deny the benefits of face-to-face teaching. Especially for those less advantaged children who do not have access to technology such as i-Pads or computers at home. These students have missed out on a whole year of learning because of this. It’s so important that we get them back into the classroom with no disruptions as soon as possible.” Hollie Hannaford – Primary School Class Teacher in Hackney, London.

How do you feel about the update on covid restrictions? Let us know in the comments!