Coronavirus: Heads question safety of school hubs move

ASCL union seeking urgent advice from public health experts on the safety of bringing together more children in a single setting

hubs concern

Headteachers are seeking advice on whether it is safe to teach children in hub schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mounting concern about the use of hubs – being created as partially closed schools merge – is also being expressed online.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) says it believes the “majority” of emergency provision (for children of key workers) is being put on by individual schools at the moment, but is urging schools and local authorities against moving towards using hubs.


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Julie McCulloch, ASCL director of policy, said: “We have asked for public health advice on the advisability of hubs.

“Is it safer to have fewer children in each of a large number of settings or bring together more children in a single setting? We have not had an answer to that question yet and, in the absence of guidance, we would advise schools and local authorities to think carefully about any decision on hubs for the time being, unless there is an urgent practical imperative.

“We also need to bear in mind that requiring children to move to an unfamiliar setting may make them more anxious at a time when they are already likely to be unsettled, and this is another factor which has to be taken into consideration.”

Meanwhile, teachers have reacted angrily on Twitter to the idea of creating hubs where partially closed schools with few pupils could merge during the coronavirus pandemic.

One headteacher said it was “prioritising efficiency over safety”.

Year 3 teacher and school governor David Keyte started a debate after hearing that many schools had currently less than 10 children.

He said: “If this is the case, do we envisage a move to ‘hub schools’ soon to minimise the number of teachers, catering and cleaning staff etc exposed?”

The tweet attracted hundreds of likes, as well as comments and retweets from teachers and headteachers around the country.

Ross Browne said: “I would stick with schools catering for their own. Don’t see the value in hubs. Surely you want less children and adults in one place? Also, don’t underestimate how anxious children are leaving their parents already, without going to an unfamiliar setting.”

SoulQueen said: “I know who I'm mixing with every day, which is the bare minimum of adults/children. No, I don't want to add anyone else to that mix in a hub.”

Chris/MrH said: “I get the idea behind this and it’s been discussed in our school, too, but doesn’t it go against the objectives of social distancing? It’s a hard one I know but wouldn’t low numbers of children dispersed in a variety of schools be better than larger numbers in one place?”

A plan for hubs has also been mentioned by chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts Leora Cruddas who, writing for Tes, said hubs should follow two main principles.

She said: “The principle of ‘continuity of care’ for the most vulnerable is paramount. We cannot have a situation where already frightened children are now being asked to be cared for by adults with whom they have no relationship. 

She also referred to the “equally important principle of keeping children and adults safe through physical distancing”, adding: “Hubs cannot and must not have the effect of creating greater physical proximity in the form of larger gatherings.”

Meanwhile, teachers on Twitter also expressed their support of hubs.

Annie Blackmore said: "“My school is part of a hub. Approach has been impressive: Social distancing measures in place. Each school allocated 2 classrooms, own toilets, own entrance/stairs, timetable for use of outside space, hot meals delivered to classroom. NO mixing.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “We are committed to supporting schools to care for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.

“We are monitoring the current situation in schools and will continue to work with the sector to ensure places are available where they are required.”

 

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