Students will continue to be expected to clean their desks and wear face covers in the corridors when classes resume, a senior private school principal said.
Samantha Price, president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), said the sector is coming back with “gradual caution” amid eased coronavirus measures.
It comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) decided against recommending Covid-19 vaccines for all 12 to 15 year olds.
Meanwhile, experts warned last month that it is “very likely” that there will be high levels of coronavirus infections in schools by the end of September.
Ms. Price, director of Benenden School in Kent said: “We will continue to clean the desks after class and ask students to do so because I think it is comforting for the teachers but also for the cleaners who go into these rooms because that is how it is good. “
“At our school, we will be asking students to wear masks in corridors and public areas, and of course tests will be done,” she added.
In the event of an outbreak, the school could revert to “bubbles” or more physical distancing between teachers and students if necessary, Ms. Price said.
However, when she took up her new post as GSA president, she added that measures could be relaxed until the end of September if there is no spike in cases.
“I think there is some degree of caution in all schools, although we recognize that we want to run schools as normally as possible, and it is also a kind of gradual caution,” Ms. Price said.
Students across England and Wales have returned to classes after the summer break and schools in Northern Ireland have reopened.
Schools in Scotland returned more than a fortnight ago and the reopening is believed to have contributed to an increase in cases there.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said, “Schools and colleges will have decided on policies that they believe will best reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission in their context.
“Government guidelines say that face covering is no longer recommended, but this does not prevent schools from making decisions about how to continue using them in common areas, and some may decide that this is a prudent measure supported by the school community .
“Some caution should be given, given the bitter experience of the past 18 months, with many schools and colleges going through two phases of partial closure and large numbers of students self-isolating at other times, and the ongoing uncertainty about the risks posed by the coronavirus in this term of office brings with it. “
Schools in England no longer have to hold students in grade bubbles to reduce commingling, and face covering is no longer recommended.
Children do not need to isolate if they come into contact with a positive Covid-19 case. Instead, they have to undergo a PCR test and only isolate if the result is positive.
But all secondary and college students in England are invited to two lateral flow tests at school three to five days apart upon their return.
Schools and colleges are encouraged to provide increased hygiene and ventilation, and secondary and college students in England have been asked to continue testing at home twice a week.
Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the NAHT School Directors Union, said, “School principals and their teams look forward to welcoming students back this week after having worked hard over the summer to create a safe and happy environment for learning . “
However, he added, “The warnings from scientists of a possible spike in the number of schools returning make it imperative that the government act quickly if the data suggests that additional security measures are needed in schools.
“In the past the reaction was just too slow – we won’t be able to see that again this year.
“Headmasters will continue to work extremely hard to keep schools as safe as possible, but they will need the support and clear instructions from central government and local health authorities to do so.
“Poor quality and inadequate advice remain a major problem for school leaders.”
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