Back to school social distancing is impossible for young children
Let’s not kid ourselves – Try telling a room full of children they can’t play together
As the UK government unveils a new phased exit strategy for lockdown measures, children as young as four years old could be allowed back to school in a matter of weeks.
And that could be a disaster because young children struggle with the concept of isolation, one group of health and safety experts says.
Protecting.co.uk health and safety software experts are concerned as to how schools will be able to maintain safe social distancing measures for young children, who could carry the illness while not showing symptoms.
“A long time ago when I was four, all I wanted to do was play with my friends,” says protecting.co.uk company spokesman Mark Hall. “Try telling a room of young children to stay away from each other – it’s an impossible task.”
Breaking the rules
The first step towards getting children in England back to school was revealed with plans for reception, year 1 and year 6 children to be in the classroom from 1st June.
Although schools didn’t shut completely with keyworkers’ children still in attendance, more children returning to school means more children to keep safe and socially distanced.
“The worry is that having too many children in a small space will create a breeding ground for the virus to potentially spread,” says spokesman Mark Hall.
“It’s important to get kids back to school for their education, but their safety takes priority.”
It’s not just that children and teachers might be at risk. The real fear is that this contagious virus could be picked up at school, and then spread among family members, leading to a new spike in infections.
Mark Hall: Perhaps it would be easier to send children back in September, rather than a few weeks before the summer holidays, so they can start the new year afresh and schools can be more prepared for their return.
Keeping kids safe at school
Protecting.co.uk reached out to customers to find out how they felt about sending their children back to school in a couple of weeks, and found that 80% were apprehensive due to lack of knowledge of how their children would be safe.
Over 300,000 worried parents and teachers have also signed a petition asking for an ‘opt-out’ for sending children back if they didn’t feel it is safe enough for them to attend.
But for the pupils who will be back in the classroom soon, they will be greeted with new systems which have been put in place for their safety. This may include –
• Smaller class sizes of 15 children
• Spaced out desks
• One-way systems in corridors
• Staggered break times
• More handwashing facilities
• Markings on the floor to indicate spacings
• Partitions to allow for barriers between children
• Use of PPE such as masks
“One thing that hasn’t been made clear yet, is whether it is up to parents or the schools to provide PPE for children,” says Hall.
“Many parents are worried due to the lack of clarity in important things such as PPE, so it’s really important that this information is made available before children are expected back in the classroom.”
What’s being done around the world
Some children around the world have already gone back to school post-Covid 19, and many countries have come up with clever solutions to make education safe for everyone.
“There are plenty of fun and create ways to keep children safe,” says Hall, “and this can be seen in schools around the world – perhaps schools here can learn by example.”
For instance – in China, children were tasked with creating social distancing hats with large ‘wings’ on either side, based off of designs worn by dynasty emperors, creating a zone of personal space around them.
Pupils in France were separated in the playground by each having their own marked out square to play in, and children in the Netherlands were greeted back with plastic shields around desks and with spaced out tables.
“It may be a comfort to parents knowing that other countries have successfully and safely managed to get children back to school,” Hall says, “but until the government can assure that precautionary measures are being taken seriously, there is a definite uncertainty.”
But for children heading back to the classroom in a few weeks, it seems like playtime is over.