In this brief report we set out a six point plan of actions for UK schools, learning from the initial weeks of term in Scotland.
The six points of actions are:
- Drive community transmission down: The most important step for reopening schools, keeping schools open and keeping all pupils and staff safe is to take all reasonable measures to drive community transmission rates down. This includes encouraging home-working where possible; ensuring all workplaces and public spaces are inspected and certified as COVID Safe before re-opening (see the Independent SAGE report on safe reopening of workplaces), closing high-risk enclosed indoor public spaces such as indoor bars and cinemas where local infection rates are high (greater than 10 new daily cases per 100k population).
- A widespread information campaign: stressing the limits on household gatherings and the need for vigorous protective measures such as hand washing, not touching eyes, nose and mouth, and maintaining distancing in the home where possible. Masks should be considered as a protective measure in all secondary school spaces (including staffrooms and classrooms), especially when distancing and ventilation are absent and local infection rates are high.
- Government should provide the practical support necessary. These include
- employing additional teachers and additional spaces so that schools can operate smaller classes to enable physical distancing.
- systematic monitoring of ventilation, particularly as the weather gets colder and opening windows will be impractical.
- Government should provide resources necessary to study at home (i.e., computers, WiFi, study spaces) so that, if secondary school students have to self-isolate or if schools have to close due to spikes in infection, all students are able to continue their education.
- Clear and consistent guidance as to when staff and pupils should seek tests and when they should be asked to self-isolate should be provided.
- Testing facilities and capacity must be expanded and organised such that all pupils, staff, and parents can access a local testing site, obtain a test without delay and receive test results within 24 hours.