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I don’t know about you, but my Covid alert sensors are on level 5 right now, well ahead of the UK government’s recent increase to level 4 (rapidly increasing). My kids have been back at school for almost two weeks, and cases of Covid-19 are starting to crop up in all our local schools. As the parent of a teenager with additional risk (Maddie has type 1 diabetes, and any virus can make blood sugar control difficult to the point of needing a hospital admission) I’m especially concerned to make sure my kids are as Covid safe at school as they can be. So here’s the coronavirus landscape in schools as I see it. 

If you also have additional risk factors in your family, this post about Covid and Diabetes is worth a read.

How are schools staying Covid safe?

To be honest, I think schools have a really tough job trying to keep students and staff protected from Coronavirus. Most schools seem to have adopted the government’s suggestion that children stick to year groups for their activities, which seems like the only logical solution. What this means in reality is that extra-curricular activities and whole school assemblies can’t happen, although our school have adopted a fun practice of conducting orchestras from the corridor whilst several split groups of students play in odd combinations of instruments. It makes for a fun session, and the kids get to continue with the band they love. Novelty does appear to be a pandemic side-effect! 

Some schools are using one-way systems, whilst others have trialled, then abandoned the one-way process due to it creating more bottlenecks (and therefore more potential for contact) than before. And as far as possible I think most schools are doing a decent job, with a tricky set of circumstances.

For me a year group bubble means that my kids could come into close contact with almost 200 kids a day. That’s not a bubble in my book, and it certainly increases the risk more than my teens hanging out in the park with 8 of their friends after school – which is currently against the rules. But schools have their hands tied with lack of resource and space to do anything more. And I actually don’t think it’s possible for them to ensure that students are completely Covid safe at school. 

So here’s how I’m increasing our vigilance, and reducing our risk. Whilst day-to-day coronavirus safety at school is limited by practicalities, there are things you can do at home to help decrease the risk of coming into contact with the virus. 

What else can you do to make sure your kids are Covid safe at school?

  • Keep masks clean: my kids carry their masks in a plastic bag in their blazer pockets, getting them out only to wear as indicated by the school rules. Every few days, masks go into the wash, and we alternate between two pairs to keep them clean. 
  • Carry hand gel in their pockets, and use it every time they remember – certainly between lessons when they’ve been moving around the school.
  • Wash hands when they come in from school. I hover while they do this, and they don’t like it. But still, I hover.
  • Take all uniform off on arrival home. When my kids get home, the first thing they do is take off their shoes and put them in the cupboard downstairs. I’ve been quite slack at making them remove shoes now that they’re teenagers, and it’s not unheard of for me to have to pick up several pairs trainers, school shoes and football boots from their bedroom floors before I hoover. But this rule has now been reinstated. All uniform goes into the wash, apart from blazers and ties, and I now do two uniform washes a week. This has cost me in extra trousers and skirts, but I feel like it’s worth it for my own peace of mind.
  • Spray blazers and bags: the only exception is blazers. My kids keep so much stuff in their blazer pockets, and I just know that if they had to empty everything every evening, they’d definitely be getting consequences at school for forgotten protractors/pencils/calculators/paintbrushes (delete as appropriate). And who’d be in trouble for that? Me… So we have cans of aerosol disinfectant spray (we use one by Dettol). I hate them, but avoiding coronavirus is more important to me at the moment than environmental issues, so blazers get sprayed, especially cuffs and pockets, where I figure the most contact happens. So do ties and schoolbags.

 

 

Will these measures prevent my child getting Coronavirus at school?

The simple answer to this is no. If I’m honest, I felt much more comfortable when we were in full lockdown. At least then I knew where my kids were, and I could control what was coming into my home to avoid Covid risk. But what I’ve had to coach myself on is that all these measures are designed to reduce risk. Does the year group ‘bubble’ mean my kids won’t get Coronavirus? No. If they use hand gel every hour at school will it prevent an infection? Also no. But – and this is the point I hope everyone will see – I can only focus on what’s within my control, and so can my kids. If each of these measures reduces their risk by only 2%, that’s a decrease worth having, for the sake of the effort required.

That last point is crucial for me. I think teenagers have had it really tough during this pandemic. Just when their independence and their friends are becoming the linchpins of their life, and their personal development, they’ve been forced to stay at home with just the people they’re trying to separate from – their parents! They’ve had their social lives closed down and limited at exactly the point where that’s what they rely on for their mental wellbeing. And to make matters worse, they’ve been heavily blamed for the second spike in the pandemic. It’s not fair. And I say that like Kevin and Perry, because it’s just not. The end.

I could absolutely keep my children at home, keep them out of school and request home school work to keep them up to date with their studies, and say no to their social activities. But we have to consider their mental health in all of this. That’s just as much a safeguarding consideration as the risk of the virus. For me at this point letting my kids go to school like every other child is giving them some normality in all this confusion and insecurity. And cutting them some slack when it comes to seeing their friends is just as crucial.

Would I like to see teens using more social distance. Absolutely. Do I think they’re not taking the virus seriously? I do, and I wish they would. Will I wish I’d kept my children away from school and their friends if one of them becomes seriously ill with Coronavirus? Probably. But for now I’m going for damage limitation and hoping for the best.

How are you keeping your kids Covid safe at school? 

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