Smaller classes and no sharing: How schools in England are keeping staff and pupils safe

Schools across England are beginning to reopen after they were shut to most pupils in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

But children who have returned to school have found things very different to when they left, with a host of new safety measures in place.

While it's up to individual schools to decide how to open safely, the government has issued guidelines on the types of measures it thinks are necessary for children and teachers to stay safe from coronavirus.

So what are the sorts of new measures being adopted by schools?

Image: Lessons resume at Queen's Hill Primary School, Costessey, Norfolk.

Smaller class sizes


One of the most noticeable changes will be in the size of classes, as the government says primary school children should now be taught in groups no larger than 15.

The limit also applies to vulnerable children – and children of key workers attending school from other year groups.

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For years 10 and 12 students there is no limit on class size, but the guidelines suggest only a quarter of pupils should be physically in school at any one time.

Children have been back at school for the first time in more than a month
Image: Children have been back at school for the first time in more than a month

Regular cleaning

Children at most schools will now be asked to wash their hands as soon as they arrive to help stop COVID-19 being passed between them.

They will then be required to regularly wash them throughout the day.

Plenty of hand sanitiser should also be provided for students in places where enough sinks are not readily available, such as in a classroom.

Areas and objects that are touched by several different people during the day – like desks, chairs, doors, sinks, toilets and light switches – must now all be cleaned regularly.

Parts of the school near Haywards Heath have been taped off as part of the measures
Image: Communal areas in schools have been taped off as part of the measures.

No sharing of resources

In order to reduce the risk of the disease being passed on, children should be provided with their own personal equipment where necessary.

At Handcross Primary School in West Sussex, this means reception children will each get their own set of toys on their desks and are not allowed to share them with anyone else.

They will also continue to use iPads and other tech in school so that they do not have to share textbooks.

The government recommends toys, books and outdoor equipment that has to be shared should not be used unless it can be cleaned regularly.

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