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24.02.2021 | By Teresa Quail

NDCS summary on updated DfE guidance – Face coverings

Posted in News

NDCS’s Ian Noon has kindly shared with BATOD the following information which BATOD members may find useful.

“On Monday night, DfE (England) updated their operational guidance for schools. This followed the announcement that schools will reopen from the 8th March in England.

Face coverings (page 11/12)

  • In secondary schools, face coverings recommended in communal areas (previously it was mandatory/discretionary, depending on tier level). Face coverings advised in classrooms/during activities where social distancing not possible
  • In primary schools, recommended that staff and adult visitors were face coverings where social distancing is not possible
  • These are temporary measures and will be reviewed in Easter
  • Guidance continues to highlight that exemptions around face coverings are in place. Schools will need to be “sensitive” about this.
  • Guidance now mentions transparent face coverings as something which can be worn. However, face visors and shields are not recommended as an alternative to face coverings unless a risk assessment has been carried out. I have copied the key text below:

Transparent face coverings, which may assist communication with someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, can also be worn. There is currently very limited evidence regarding the effectiveness or safety of transparent face coverings, but they may be effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Those who rely on visual signals for communication, or communicate with or provide support to such individuals, are currently exempt from any requirement to wear face coverings in schools or in public places.

Face visors or shields should not be worn as an alternative to face coverings. They may protect against droplet spread in specific circumstances but are unlikely to be effective in reducing aerosol transmission when used without an additional face covering. They should only be used after carrying out a risk assessment for the specific situation and should always be cleaned appropriately.

NDCS is disappointed with some of the wording used in this around transparent face coverings and will be asking DfE to amend this.

Elsewhere, the guidance reiterates many of the points that were already there around specialist support.

Page 16 – intermixing across bubbles in order to access specialist provision is still permitted.

Assess your circumstances and try to implement ‘bubbles’ of an appropriate size to achieve the greatest reduction in contact and mixing. Make sure this will not affect the quality and breadth of teaching or access for support and specialist staff and therapists.

Page 19 – specialist interventions by peripatetic Teachers can be provided as usual

Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual. They, as well as supply teachers, peripatetic teachers or other temporary staff, can move between settings. They should ensure they minimise contact and maintain as much distance as possible from other staff.

Page 20 – specialist equipment can continue to be used where it can be cleaned between use (which BATOD have provided guidance on – https://www.batod.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Cleaning-hearing-devices-and-radio-aids-supporting-health-and-safety-during-Covid-19-v5.pdf)

You will need to assess the ability to clean equipment used in the delivery of therapies, for example, physiotherapy equipment or sensory equipment. Determine whether this equipment can withstand cleaning and disinfecting between each use before it is put back into general use. Where cleaning or disinfecting is not possible or practical, resources will have to be either:

  • restricted to one user
  • left unused for a period of 48 hours (72 hours for plastics) between use by different individuals

Page 32 – attendance from 8th March will be mandatory, unless a child is self-isolating or shielding

Page 39 – a reminder to schools that the Equality Act remains in place

You must continue to meet your equalities duties. See the Equality Act 2010 advice for schools for more information.

Separate guidance have been produced for early year settingsspecial schools and FE. I haven’t read in detail but, from a glance, they repeat many of the points above.

There is a separate guidance document specifically on face coverings which hasn’t, at time of writing, been updated.

We have made some additional changes to our education blogs – particularly in the section on face coverings – to reflect the above.

Blog for families: https://www.ndcs.org.uk/blog/schools-and-other-education-settings-coronavirus-info-for-families-of-deaf-children/

Blog for professionals: https://www.ndcs.org.uk/blog/education-for-deaf-children-coronavirus-info-for-professionals/