Today, our blog looks at the wider opening of schools, colleges and early years settings as well as government policy to stop drugs in schools.

Schools and early years returning

On Wednesday 27 May, the Prime Minister appeared before the Liaison Committee where he spoke about the wider opening of schools, colleges and early years settings.

We have issued a detailed planning guide for all nurseries, childminders and early years settings to prepare for wider opening from 1 June at the earliest, subject to meeting the government’s five tests.

This guidance includes details about how settings can limit contact between groups of children and staff, and implement protective measures to lower the risk of transmission. We know that early years children cannot be expected to remain two metres apart from each other and staff.

Therefore early years providers should use our guidance to plan and put in place measures that work for their settings and circumstances:

  • arranging children into small groups with consistent staffing over time, and avoiding mixing between these groups
  • avoiding contact with anyone with symptoms
  • frequent hand cleaning and good hygiene practices
  • more frequent cleaning of settings
  • following procedures on what to do if someone becomes symptomatic while in a setting

The government has also confirmed that it is expanding its testing programme to children aged under five, providing parents and staff with additional reassurance ahead of the planned return to the classroom.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Nurseries, preschools and childminders have played an enormous role in our response to this pandemic by caring for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children throughout. As they prepare to welcome back all children from 1 June at the earliest, we are grateful for their continued hard work.

Our planning guide has been drawn up in collaboration with staff on the ground and sector groups. It provides additional detail to inform the plans to open more widely, if the five key tests we have set are met, and puts the safety and wellbeing of both children and adults at the heart of all decision making.

Police data on drugs in school

There is media coverage today of police figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association, showing a rise in the number of drug-related incidents in schools grounds by more than 25% between 2016 and 2019. 

Coverage claims children as young as nine have been caught with drugs on school premises and there were 2,600 cases over a four-year period.

Our statutory safeguarding guidance for schools makes clear that the safety and welfare of young people is a priority in every educational setting. It sets out what school staff should look out for to help identify children who need help and what to do if they have concerns about children. All school and college staff should be alert to the potential need for early help for a child who is misusing drugs or alcohol.

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As a government we are strengthening how we protect children at risk of criminal or gang exploitation, investing in projects that keep them safe. We have also increased the financial support available to councils during the unprecedented circumstances we currently face to manage additional pressures on services.

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