Education after coronavirus: how will schools adapt post lockdown?

Comment by JEAN-HENRI BEUKES, Managing Director of Ecocleen

In a matter of months, COVID-19 has changed how students are educated across the UK. It has raised many issues for the whole of the education community, with both students and staff facing a range of challenges arising from lockdown, social distancing and possibly illness. As a result, we have seen schools, universities and other educational facilities move to remote learning environments with lessons, assessments and projects being delivered online. However, with schools now increasing operations until the end of the

summer term, returning to education in a physical setting raises its own set of challenges. Schools will need to accommodate for a reduced number of learners each day according to their capacity while ensuring appropriate social distancing is adhered to. What’s more, cleaning and hygiene procedures will need to be much stricter with a number of recommended health and safety guidelines to be enforced by education facilities.

Reducing the risk of cross contamination In order for schools to reopen safely, they will need to make sure that students stay within small groups, to create a protective bubble around them. The next step is to secure those bubbles and safeguard cross- contamination to ensure the risk of transmission is substantially reduced – for students, their teachers and also their families. This will involve making changes to schools cleaning procedures and potentially introducing daily

cleaning throughout the school day. Education facilities also need to consider installing hand sanitisation units, focussing on door handles and main contact points, to safeguard their student bubbles and reduce the risk of cross contamination.

Providing training for staff The coronavirus pandemic has created a huge opportunity for schools to invest in training their staff and making sure the people that are fulfilling the responsibility are up for the task. It’s critical that they completely understand infection control procedures and follow the guidelines to ensure the schools are a safe environment for students. This training will also contribute to their general wellbeing, which is just as important to safeguard as the students. We should invest in them, train them and make them feel supported.

Demand for high quality cleaning services The need for high-quality cleaning services has also dramatically increased after the hit of COVID-19. One of the biggest factors to consider is the quality of products used to clean education facilities. Schools should consider using biological products rather than chemicals, as they promote a safer environment for students and staff, as well as reduce the risk of long-term illness. Natural cleaning products also improve the classroom’s air quality, making it a more hygienic and comfortable environment.

Looking to the future There is no one size fits all for schools and it’s important for educators to approach the required changes pragmatically. Not only does this include adapting cleaning and hygiene practices, but also ensuring education facilities are mindful of the physical environment and how this can be managed to support the health and well-being of learners and staff. This involves working step by step and identifying the school’s main contact points to reduce the risk of transmission and cross contamination within the small bubbles of students. Education facilities also have a responsibility to help educate their staff and students in hygiene best practices and this will massively support the cycle of infection in the long term.

Inclusion: actively creating positive change for good

Comment by LARA PÉCHARD, Head at St Margaret’s School in Hertfordshire

Throughout my teaching career, any suggestion by pupil or parent that my school has been in any way racist has made me uncomfortable and also very quick to point out how we are inclusive, loving and supportive of a diverse population. Today, having spent more time educating myself around some of the key issues, I perhaps understand them a little better than I once did. Rather than feeling defensive, I understand the responsibility and power

of my influence as a Head to ensure inclusion for all. As such, I actually feel very open towards the scrutiny of both myself and the school network and any possible bias that may or may not be present. Regardless of how uncomfortable I may find my privilege, rather than

become self-conscious about it, I am trying to lean more into the conversations that are happening. The key then, is to try and really understand the views within the school community to ensure we are listening to all voices, opening conversations with all pupils, alumni, parents and staff to uncover a multitude of views on how we can improve to become a genuinely diverse population. This has taken great courage and energy. Talking about diversity and

inclusion in a way that demonstrates empathy, love and respect but also an acknowledgement of the limits of our knowledge and experience,


might encourage more to speak up about the challenges they face. Being truly inclusive is to provide for a much richer, diverse, complex and dynamic community; if we rely on too few or create too narrow a group to consider this matter in real depth, we risk alienating people. Students, parents and staff need to feel safe, comfortable and able to speak up. Creating change for good may also involve going back through history,

not only to expose the skeletons in the closets, so that we can be sensitive to them, but also so we can talk about how we are moving forward and demonstrate to our community that we are serious about accelerating our progress. A recent conversation with a past student on the question of how the school has dealt with race in the past was helpful. The point she raised was that race was never talked about. Only now are her peer groups sharing and talking about their lived experiences. It is therefore key for schools to create a secure forum where children

can speak freely and share, knowing that we are keen to listen, learn and act. Everyone can benefit from the power of talking but also listening, something that as humans, we often find much harder than we probably should. We must ensure that our curriculum (not just PSHE and assemblies)

reflects the diversity of the world around us in a way that makes people feel valued, visible and able to celebrate their differences. This means inclusion of race, religion, gender, sexuality and also other differences, in a more integrated way that demonstrates a genuine sincerity to turn over stones. My pupils recently benefited from an excellent talk recorded by Claire

Harvey MBE ( Claire is a Paralympian and leadership expert who advocates diversity and inclusion and her straightforward approach was hugely impactful in showing us how accessible it is to be an ‘ally’ for inclusion and diversity. It helped me understand that racism isn’t a good or bad binary position, and that we need not just be passively supportive of diversity, but we need to be intentionally, active creators of inclusion.

July/August 2020

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