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Govt publishes guidelines for return to school

Eyleen Gomez

Pupils will not need to wear masks in school, the Department of Education confirmed on Thursday as it published guidance on the reopening of schools next week.

The Department and Public Health Gibraltar have collaborated in the development of the ‘return to school’ pathway which sets out what measures will be implemented to protect children and staff.

And, whilst the document sets out what measures will be implemented to mitigate the spread of infection among students, “social distancing, between children and young adults is not in their best social and emotional development interests.”

Nonetheless, the school day will be organised to minimise movement around the school or building and staggered break times will be implemented so that all children are not moving around the school at the same time and to ensure children interact with the same group of individuals - their ‘bubble’ - throughout the school day.

Schools have also organised staggered drop-off and collection times to allow for greater social distancing between parents or guardians.

According to a government statement: “The overarching drive is to return all students to formal teaching and learning following the summer recess in September 2020 with the confidence of parents and staff being a critical factor.”

It explained that the guidance document is a live document which will be dynamic in nature.

Updates and amendments will be made as and when required according to the latest Public Health advice.

This guidance document provides a bespoke framework for school leaders to put in place proportionate protective measures for children and staff, the Government explained.

It also recognises that the context of each school will determine how the combination of these measures are used to best effect to help minimise the risk of transmission in each educational setting.

The Department of Education continues to promote hand washing as the number one preventative measure for reducing the spread of Covid-19.

The document has been shared with school leaders and with the NASUWT, GGCA and UNITE.

The Department of Education invited feedback from these stakeholders and, it said, all the points raised so far have been considered and responded to.

The guidelines have been used by the senior leaders of Government schools to guide and prepare for the safe opening of schools on September 1.

The guidance outlines key principles that have informed the Department of Education’s planning and includes information on the key mitigating measures that will be put in place; guidelines for staff, children, parents and visitors; information on the arrangements for returning to school; reference to enhanced cleaning measures that will be in effect; as well as information on the procedures schools, parents and staff should follow if individuals are unwell or if a positive case of COVID-19 is identified within a school setting.

Additionally, the document contains information on the support that will be available to pupils, teachers and staff as they return to school and throughout the academic year.

The priority for the Department of Education is to ensure that its schools are as safe and happy an environment as possible for all the children, young people and members of staff in our schools.

All pupils enrolled in schools are legally required to attend unless they have the appropriate exemption paperwork as outlined in the guidelines.

“We will continue to ensure the guidance provided reflects the latest Public Health advice and we will review the situation in schools on a regular basis, together with school staff and the recognised Trade Unions.”

The Department of Education has implored all learners and parents to read the advice provided and to follow the guidelines and procedures in place.

“In this way, we can work together as a community in a determined effort to prioritise our children’s education whilst ensuring individuals’ health and safety is not compromised,” the Department said.

“We will review measures as necessary to ensure that the return to school, for all pupils and staff, is as safe, happy and smooth as possible.”

The document is available for the general public to read at www.education.gov.gi