The Covid-19 pandemic is raising real and painful dilemmas among parents and education professionals, the like of which have never been seen before.
After many weeks of lockdown, the government is plotting a staged return to normal life. That will include schools reopening from 1 June onwards.
Anxieties remain though. A poll of 260,000 parents by Parentkind, a parent-teacher association charity, showed 90% did not want children to return to school straight at the end of lockdown.
A YouGov survey of UK workers showed 55% of respondents were uncomfortable about returning to work. For teachers it was 66%.
Many of these worries will be related to safety concerns about the potential spread of Covid-19 in schools, despite the use of a range of measures, including social distancing.
It is a trend we recognise when carrying out Covid-19 decontamination for schools and many other organisations.
The pandemic has not just heightened concerns about risks from pathogens, it has reframed them and reset them at a higher level.
This places critical importance on the wider hygiene strategy in schools both to physically remove the Covid-19 virus risk and to address the fears of parents, pupils, and staff.
Social distancing is designed to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus from person to person. However, it can do little to stop the pathogen being passed from person to surface to person.
In schools, this second transmission method is likely to be particularly important. There are thousands of high-touchpoints, and many young people are not minded to follow strict hand-hygiene protocols.
For independent schools this is a critical problem. Parents may want to consider hygiene standards as well as academic ones, alongside pastoral care and extra-curricular opportunities, when selecting schools.
A Covid-19 outbreak would represent a significant reputational and financial risk.
What is needed is a technological solution that addresses the person-to-surface-to-person threat and that provides long-term protection against the Covid-19 virus.
One that will firmly underpin social distancing and hand-hygiene measures and send a clear message to parents and school staff that everything is being done to maximise safety.
Our response has been to develop a three-step Covid-19 treatment and protection programme that we call Back to School Clean and Safe.
Step one is to carry out a conventional deep clean. This is something the CIPD and other business organisations have expressly recommended. It removes contamination and pathogens that can develop in buildings not used for some time.
Step two is to treat and protect surfaces with an advanced broad spectrum microbial disinfectant using an electrostatic spray system that maximises its coverage and surface bonding.
Tests have proven it to be greater than 99.99% effective against Covid-19, plus bacteria and mould. It also remains active on surfaces, even in high-touch areas for up to 30 days.
This long-lasting microbial barrier system, also non-toxic and food safe, is the technical shield that helps prevent surface-to-person transmission. It allows protection to be maintained through repeated treatment cycles for as long as necessary.
Step three is testing. We have developed a testing regime with an international laboratory that allows us to take samples from multiple sites and show that there is no Covid-19 present.
A certificate is issued on completion of service that can be used to verify a school’s response to Covid-19.
Other specialist suppliers will be developing their own services. Schools must assess which one best fits their needs.
However, a comprehensive technical disinfection solution, carried out by verifiable specialists, is likely to become a vital component of a robust Covid-19 protection strategy for many organisations.
Just as important, is the powerful message it sends to pupils, parents and staff. It will help schools allay their concerns over Covid-19 and consider their mental wellbeing. It is likely to be a powerful differentiator as schools market themselves over the coming weeks and months.
Find out more: thesafegroup.co.uk