The HM Governments briefing on the 11th May 2020 gave some hope that in the coming months schools and academies may be able to reopen their doors for limited numbers of learners. The reality is schools and academies have never closed their doors because they have played a vital role in providing care services to keyworkers children and vulnerable children but, using an institution’s premises for childcare and as a school are two completely different scenarios.
This article will look at what a school or academy might want to consider when planning their reopening and what support services or goods they may want to consider procuring during the process.
Introducing learners back into a school environment could be undertaken in a few ways, here are some to consider:
Staggering start and finish times
Using staggered times would avoid learners starting and finishing at the same time and naturally avoid the build-up of parent/carers at the gates.
Should staggering times not be feasible then using different entrances and exits for the different years could be one way to disseminate learners around the site.
Some modern buildings have programmable access cards. By programming cards, you can restrict access through certain doors to help keep learners from entering certain parts of the building.
The movements of staff and learners from entering the institution to leaving is one of many overlaps and will typically involve them entering through closed doors, using cloakrooms, classrooms, washrooms and dining areas. Obviously, you also need to consider the need for learners to be given the opportunity to let off steam outdoors in the playground where there may be play equipment and street furniture. Keeping all these areas clean and hygienic will be a challenge.
Procuring cleaning products of this nature at a time when every other school will be wanting similar products may be difficult and some suppliers may have a backlog of orders to fulfil.
Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC) have pre-vetted suppliers on their janitorial and cleaning supplies framework as well as an online Quote Tool to enable you to quickly request prices from the listed suppliers.
Social distancing will be one of the main obstacles that schools and academies will have to try and overcome and with the gradual reoccupation, institutions are likely to have more space to allow for their learners to be sat further apart. The obvious option is to removes desks or even chairs. Should space not allow for this, then simply placing a red cross on desk that cannot be occupied will act as a visual aid to remind learner to keep a distance. Purchasing off-site storage may be a requirement if surplus furniture needs to be placed into storage. CPC have a list of removal and relocation suppliers.
You may want to consider using signage to instigate a single direction flow in open spaces such as corridors and dining areas. Restricting numbers in a lift to 1 or even 2 people at any one time and opening entrance and exits doors which would normally be closed are other ways to avoid congestion.
Whether it be parents, suppliers or contractors the way in which external visitors are greeted and given access to buildings will need to be considered.
Planned visits – you could issue visitor information in advance by email. This information could contain your policy for social distancing. You could ask visitors to bring their own PPE and provide them with a list of your expectations.
Unexpected visitors – your Reception Team will need to be prepared and have knowledge of the procedures in place. A ready-made visitor pack could be distributed which contains items such as sanitising wipes, tissue, mask, anti-bac gel and a copy of your safety policy and procedures. Many of these items can be purchased from CPC’s PPE, Clothing and Uniforms list of suppliers.
Reception areas are typically designed to be a welcoming space and contain flowers, newsletters, and other publications. The removal of these items is wise as is the removal or reduction in visitor hospitality. Where hospitality is given, the consideration of disposable cups and bottles would reduce the chance of cross-contamination. A list of suppliers who can offer different types of disposables is available on CPC’s Catering Equipment page.
Some maintenance tasks may have been postponed during the closure period. During your planning to ensure your institution is safe to reopen, you may wish to consider getting up to date with your statutory requirements. Getting these checks completed before the school reopens will not only ensure it is safe but will also avoid the need to additional visitors once you are open. CPC have a list of pre-vetted suppliers who can support you in undertaking any statutory maintenance checks/tests.
Every great school and academy has a great team and it is during this planning stage that the team needs to come together. The School Leadership Team will be busy overseeing various tasks:
- Making sure there is sufficient budgets to cover the necessary purchases involved in the reopening
- Ensuring that any purchases made adhere to the school procurement policy and any external factors such as the Public Contract Regulations 2015
- Liaising with staff about working conditions and policies
- Ensuring health and safety is continually updated and reviewed
- Making sure the organisation is adhering to HM Government guidelines and legislation.
It has only been 5 weeks that schools and academies have been closed but it must feel like a lifetime and although the reopening of the doors to your learners is an exciting prospect, there is planning to be done before the event.
Crescent Purchasing Consortium and Tenet Education Services are both owned by CPL Group an education sector charity with over 20 years’ experience of supporting schools to purchase goods and services. Both organisations operate as a not-for-profit service and are ready to give you any support you require, many of which are free to access, so do not struggle alone as our team are ready to assist.
The experience of reopening your doors and seeing the smiling faces of your learners coming back to school should be embraced.
On behalf of everyone at CPL Group, thank you for your support towards key workers and vulnerable children during these unprecedented times.
Government guidance documents
The Government has published guidance documents on how to prepare for wider opening from 1 June 2020, links are available below: