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Social distancing and PPE guidance for staff

Hi colleagues,

added 27th March 2020

My thoughts yesterday chimed very much with Kim’s, this is what I have sent out to staff in both Co-op special academies:

“These safety steps have been agreed with my union the NEU, for staff working in special schools – I am not aware that any other unions have issued specific practical guidance yet:

  • For many children with learning difficulties and disabilities the idea of ‘social distancing’ is very hard to explain and in practice probably impossible to achieve in a meaningful way (ie to achieve clinical effectiveness).
  • Therefore we are taking every child’s temperature on arrival, and anyone who has a temp higher than 37.8 is sent home, as is any child with symptoms of cold or flu.
  • Once passed OK to come in to school all children are reminded how to, and then supervised to wash their hands for +20 seconds.
  • In the provisions we are working around 15-20% of capacity and so have locked off a substantial part of the building in order to limit the area that needs to be supervised and cleaned.
  • Nevertheless we are working in a much bigger ratio in terms of area per person than would normally be the case, so that staff and children can spread out and use separate workstations and tables wherever possible.
  • The area in use for activity is changed regularly so that furniture and equipment can be regularly sanitised.
    Playing out of doors is strongly encouraged if the weather permits.
  • If a student begins to show signs of becoming unwell: temperature, cough, flu like symptoms whilst in school, staff should isolate the young person, call home for them to be collected and they should stay off school for the next 7 days.
  • Staff have ready access to hand sanitiser gel as well as handwashing facilities in each classroom. This is a priority PPE resource for our settings.
  • Whenever intimate personal care is provided the staff must wear gloves and aprons; this is priority PPE.
  • As we are actively screening for children who are unwell on entry, we do not think it is necessary or appropriate for staff to wear face masks; if they did the pupils would need to do so too. These children would be very unlikely to be compliant with such a requirement and this would risk escalation of challenging behaviour in a way that elevated the risk for staff and children. Our school nurses have advised us that the above precautions are sufficient.
  • Additionally if we demand the use of face masks for use with children who are not thought to be unwell, we will be re-directing that resource away from staff who do need them when working with people who are known to be unwell, in the NHS and care home sectors. Also, once started, if there is an interruption of supply then we will lose staff’s confidence when their apparent ‘barrier’ is removed.
  • Some staff have started using their own DIY face masks, and there is no need to tell them not to do so, as it is their choice for reassurance even though unnecessary.
  • For the small number of children with severe challenging behaviour, where physical interventions are predictable and part of their care plan, the awareness and assessment of fluctuating health on an hour by hour basis, is the most significant safeguard.
  • After that, working is settings that allow for the minimum need to intervene physically is the next best safeguard; this is because many physical interventions are made to protect other people, property and even good order in schools, when in session. Of these the only factor to consider in the light of Covid 19 virus, is the safety of the child and the staff. If these children are not in settings where they can hurt other children, or themselves, through adjustments to the environment, then that is optimal.
  • Only if it is unavoidable should restrictive physical interventions be used, and then physical techniques that seek to counteract the risk of biting and spitting should be risk-assessed, and if necessary put into the child’s plan as a proactive measure for staff to use. Existing training packages do include these techniques as an ‘in extremis’ provision. Whereas spitting is sometimes not responded to as a ‘high risk’ behaviour, it should now be categorised as such. Police-style ‘spit hoods’ are not currently used in schools and as the use of physical devices to control children goes against all of their previous training and ethos, we do not need to adopt the use of such equipment now.
  • An additional technique for personal safety is to train and encourage staff to use one hand for all contact with objects beyond their own body such as door handles and furniture, and the other to touch their own face or items attached to their body, if wearing equipment such as gel bottles or keys. This separation is both helpful for reducing the risk of transmission of virus, but also trains awareness of the risk in everyday activity.
  • SLT at Southfield will be asking each team to implement these practices every day that we are open to provide childcare for Key Workers and vulnerable children.”



Dominic Wall

Executive Principal & SEND Lead for Co-op Academies Trust

Co-op Academy Southfield

01274 779662 | M: 07527 013462<>  | @SouthfieldBD5<>

Southfield Grange Campus, Haycliffe Lane, Bradford, BD5 9ET