HSE updates its advice to Schools on re-opening to in-school lessons

Ridwaan Omar
Ridwaan Omar

Published: March 5th, 2021

7 min read

With the anticipated return of children being taught at school from Monday 8th March 2021 onwards, the HSE have reminded education establishments about the mitigating measures that they should put in place to control risk from COVID-19.

The HSE have confirmed that they will continue to investigate any concerns and incidents reported to them although they will not be enforcing measures which school may have to introduce such as asymptomatic testing of staff and pupils and use of face coverings.

During spot checks and inspections carried out by the HSE across primary and secondary schools (5000) between September and December 2020, the HSE found that 80% of schools had a good understanding of the guidance of what was required to ensure that they were COVID-19 compliant.

Please see our earlier article in advance of these spot checks HSE carrying out COVID-19 Health and Safety Spot Checks and Inspections on Schools in England and Wales 29 Oct 2020 - Article from Forbes Solicitors

Where areas of concerns were identified these were common to a small number of schools including:

  • Social distancing in staff rooms and kitchen/canteens;
  • Cleaning regimes;
  • Ventilation in school buildings.

The issue of ventilation was commonly achieved by reliance on opening windows and doors for long periods of time. Balancing the effect that this had on the room temperature for staff and pupils was an isue. The HSE has updated their guidance on ventilation found at the following link: Ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (hse.gov.uk)

Some of the issues identified by the HSE inspectors included generic risk assessments lacking specific detail, lack of effective systems for regular monitoring and review of risk assessments, fire doors being propped open to aid ventilation, inappropriate rooms for isolating suspected cases and the arrangements for managing external visitors and contractors.

A HSE (67 page) operational guide is available for good practice and guidance found at the following link: Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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