Adapted Covid-19 Classroom
Most of the children in the UK have now been at home for several months, after the government took the decision to close schools in mid-March 2020 to help stop the spread of Covid-19. The reopening date for schools has been long awaited by parents and teachers who have all had to adapt to home schooling and remote teaching methods during lockdown. Guidance on returning safely back to schools has been released by the government with separate guidance for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Plans and dates to reopen schools in the UK have been announced, making attendance mandatory from the beginning of the Autumn Term in September. When schools fully reopen in England teachers will need to keep classes or whole year groups apart in separate ‘bubbles’ which may in some cases reduce class sizes by half.
Learning spaces in a pre-COVID world were not designed to contain the spread of harmful transmission as classrooms were often running at full capacity with between 28 to 32 pupils or students per class. In a post COVID world, classrooms will need to decrease density for smaller ‘bubble groups’ as well as plan for greater flexibility and adaptability long term.
Here at Edu-quip we have been focusing on how our learning environments will change to adapt to the ‘New Normal’ with new suggested safety measures. We have therefore put together examples of before and after visuals detailing a classroom setting which supports social distancing and reduced learning groups.
Pupils returning to school will, almost certainly, find their classrooms very different, almost unrecognisable from the space they left in March 2020...We hope that the new classrooms and learning spaces will still be welcoming whilst potentially improving the learning and teaching experience overall.
So, what can pupils expect when they return?
Reduced class size
Initially, one of the biggest concerns for teachers, parents and ministers was how social distancing will be possible in schools. Many thought it would be impossible and pressure was mounting on the government to reduce the initial 2m rule to 1m to facilitate teaching. The UK then looked to European schools who were replacing social distancing with ‘learning bubbles.’ Learning bubbles will comprise of small groups of pupils who will stay within their bubbles throughout the school day. This will mean they will not mix with other children or other bubbles at any other time.
Plexiglass protection screens
Pupils and teachers need to protect themselves from airborne particles delivered by cough and sneeze transmission. One of the most effective ways to do this is to screen areas and therefore people from any potential harmful transmission. Mobile screens and desk top screens have been favoured by the educational sector as they are easy to move, reconfigure and clean – ideal for creating learning zones. The adapted Covid-19 classroom features desk top protection screens made up of colourful frames and tempered safety glass or acrylic. The glass or acrylic surface is also writable so pupils can get creative by drawing ideas or making notes.
A focus on wellbeing
It is hard to gauge at this point what the full impact of lockdown has had on children and young people’s mental health or wellbeing. Pupils will have had varying experiences of the lockdown period. For some, it will have been a safe and enjoyable time but for others it may have been challenging or traumatic. Schools and teachers are used to supporting their pupils through the challenges that they face in life. It is therefore important that schools and teachers focus on pupil’s wellbeing and assist with the management of feelings of stress or anxiety.
Traditionally, schools tend to favour bright and bold colours which usually stimulate the brain and energise pupils, ideal for learning environments. However bright colours can also make people feel a little anxious which may be counter-productive when welcoming back pupils who may be feeling nervous. In the adapted Covid-19 classroom we have introduced calming colours to the walls and introduced suspended acoustic shaped clouds.
The impact of poor acoustics in classrooms and schools can make it hard for teachers and pupils to communicate and be heard clearly. This can have a negative effect on learning and the pupil’s wellbeing.
To address this, in 2003, The Department for Education in England published a document (BB93) to ensure that school buildings provide the right acoustic conditions to enable effective teaching and learning. Some examples of the BB93 performance standards which can be found in the document include sound insulation of floors and ceilings and sound absorption in corridors and stairwells.
We have added some suspended acoustic clouds to The Adapted Covid-19 classroom which are engaging and playful and highly effective in reducing noise levels.
Some returning pupils may feel more comfortable in spaces which have been set aside for quiet working or rest. Acoustic Pods and acoustic study booths offer peaceful and protective zones increasing productivity and wellbeing levels.
What is Biophilia? Biophilia means a ‘love of nature’ and focuses on our tendency to seek connections with nature such as plants and trees or crashing waves which captivate us. Lockdown, cancelled holidays, closing of beaches and limited social contact does not bode well with our Biophilic tendencies.
We have therefore introduced some additional plants to the adapted Covid-19 classroom and acoustic moss panels to enhance the learning environment whilst offering a slice of nature from within the four walls of the classroom.
Respiratory hygiene and handwashing
Schools will be promoting the importance of respiratory hygiene and the Catch it, Bin it, Kill it message will be visible in a number of classrooms and corridors. Supplies of tissues should be readily available for pupils to cover their mouth or nose if coughing or sneezing. Careful handwashing with liquid soap and warm water will also be encouraged and teachers will reiterate the importance of hand washing after using the toilet and before eating. Public Health England does not recommend the use of face coverings in schools as misuse of facemasks may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission and there may be negative effects on communication and learning. Face coverings, however, will be required at all times on public transport to and from school.
Sneeze stations should be considered and placed where staff and pupils can wash their hands, clean with wet wipes and have access to tissues if needed. We offer a number of moveable storage options which can feature as sneeze stations including The Callero Flat Shellf Trolley or The Callero Library Trolley.
As a look to the future, many schools, colleges and universities will need to continue to adapt their learning zones in line with the latest government guidelines.
Prior preparation and planning will be essential in the fight to mimimise the effects that a possible future outbreak of Covid-19 could have on the education sector.
It will also be essential that any new measures or changes do not compromise our pupil’s learning experience and teachers should also ensure that our children remain engaged, inspired and happy within the classroom.
“The best way to make children good is to make them happy” – Oscar Wilde