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Coronavirus UK: New school rules put pupils in age ‘bubbles’

Pupils using school buses will be expected to stay in their bubbles. 

Those who usually use public transport can continue to do so, but cycling and walking will be encouraged. 

Schools may introduce staggered start times so pupils can travel at quieter times. 

Pupils will be grouped into small ‘bubbles’, although the Department of Education guidance does not specify their precise size. MailOnline has contacted a spokesman for comment.  

However, one headteacher has suggested these bubbles could consist of as many as 150 pupils. 

Pupils will therefore not be able to stand unsupervised on their own outside the headmaster’s office, or be held in detention or isolation as punishment. 

One teacher told The Sun: ‘Social distancing rules mean the idea of putting a child and teacher on their own for an hour in detention after school is a non-starter.

‘It is one change pupils will be cheering about – but it may leave teachers pulling their hairs out.’ 

Pepe Di’Iasio, of Wales High School in Rotherham, Sheffield, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We’re keeping each of our year groups separate so there’s 350 students in each bubble, each year group will have their own social area, their own toilets.’ 

In all schools, everyone will be expected to regularly wash their hands and always use tissues for sneezes and coughs. 

Schools will also have to introduce ‘enhanced cleaning procedures’, although masks will not have to be worn. Kitchens will continue to operate as normal, albeit with extra hygiene precautions.    

Assemblies or collective worship with more than one bubble will be avoided. 

Pupils will wear school uniform as usual but will be urged to only bring ‘essentials’, including a lunch boxes, books, stationery and mobile phones. 

Activities like breakfast and after-school clubs will be expected to continue as normal. 

Music lessons can also continue, but there will be extra precautions if people are ‘singing, chanting or playing wind instruments’ because this can spread Covid even if people aren’t sat close to each other. 

Headteachers can mitigate against this risk by having more social distancing and reducing class sizes to no more than 15. 

School trips both in the UK and abroad will be discouraged.  

The traditional morning meeting of the whole school will no longer be able to go ahead due to fears of spreading Covid.

Pupils will be kept in bubbles of 50 or more, making the prospect of the entire school meeting an impossibilty. 

Singing and chanting is also believed to further the spread of Covid, making the mass-gatherings out of the question/

Boris Johnson was originally adamant that pupils in England would not have to wear masks, insisting that the risk of a child getting seriously ill from Covid was ‘very, very, very low’ and that masks would impede communication. 

But Nicola Sturgeon said secondary school pupils in Scotland will be required to wear masks when in communal areas and when travelling between classes, piling the pressure on the PM to change tack. 

Now Mr Johnson has signalled that there could be a change in approach in what would be another major u-turn.  

He said: ‘On the issue of whether or not to wear masks in some contexts – you know, we’ll look at the the changing medical evidence as we go on. If we need to change the advice then of course we will.’  

Schools will be expected to continue with team sports and PE lessons. 

Pupils will have to be kept in their bubbles and equipment cleaned after each use. 

However, in one major change, the Department for Education says contact sports ‘should be avoided’, meaning sports like rugby will not be able to go ahead as before.

If schools  have two or more confirmed cases within 14 days, or there is an overall rise in sickness absence, this will be categorised as an ‘outbreak’ and the school will have to contact the local health protection team. 

This could lead to a mobile testing unit being dispatched to test the infected pupil’s class, followed by their year group, and even the whole school if necessary.  

An outbreak could result in the whole year or school being sent home as a precaution. 

However, government says that ‘whole school closure based on cases within the school will not generally be necessary, and should not be considered except on the advice of health protection teams’.

Schools will be expected to be able to offer ‘immediate remote education’ if there is a local outbreak or a second national lockdown. 

Yes, from September it will be compulsory for all pupils to return to school, with parents threatened with fines if they refuse. 

This includes most children who were previously shielding, as this advice was paused on August 1. 

However, pupils who have coronavirus symptoms or have come into close contact with someone displaying them will required to self-isolate at home. 

Boris Johnson today appeared to lay the groundwork for a humiliating U-turn on pupils wearing face masks in schools as he said ‘if we need to change the advice then of course we will’. 

Currently head teachers in England are being told that face coverings will not be necessary in schools when they reopen next week as long as they adhere to hygiene rules. 

But Nicola Sturgeon has said secondary school pupils in Scotland will be required to wear masks when in communal areas and when travelling between classes, piling the pressure on the PM to change tack.

That move was confirmed this morning by Scotland’a Education Secretary John Swinney who said secondary schools will be given ‘obligatory guidance’ that pupils should wear masks when outside the classroom from next Monday. 

Downing Street and senior ministers have insisted in recent days that there were no plans to review the guidance in England.

But Mr Johnson has now signalled there could be a change in approach as he said: ‘On the issue of whether or not to wear masks in some contexts – you know, we’ll look at the the changing medical evidence as we go on. If we need to change the advice then of course we will.’ 

He added: ‘If there are things we have to do to vary the advice on medical grounds, we will, of course, do that.

‘But as the chief medical officer, all our scientific advisers, have said, schools are safe.’  

A report by the Tes education magazine claimed this afternoon that Public Health England and the Department for Education have already agreed to change the policy in order to make wearing masks compulsory in communal areas. 

Teaching unions have seized on the issue, with the Association of School and College Leaders demanding Mr Johnson follow Ms Sturgeon’s lead. 

The Government is desperately trying to persuade parents to send their children back to school amid lingering safety fears and the face masks issue risks undermining the efforts of ministers. 

There is now growing speculation that Ms Sturgeon’s decision to act first on face masks in schools will ultimately force Number 10 to reverse its stance. 

It would not be the first time that the SNP leader has humiliated Mr Johnson during the pandemic. 

She has repeatedly gazumped the PM throughout the crisis, taking action before the UK Government on things including announcing a ban on large social gatherings, closing schools and saying that the original three week lockdown would be extended. 

The Scottish government was also the first to act in the wake of the recent exam results furore.  

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