Special schools in England are anxiously seeking updated coronavirus advice, only days before many reopen in a sector where social distancing is often impossible.
Phillip Potter, the headteacher of Oak Grove college in West Sussex, which opens to the first of its pupils on Friday, said he was working on the basis that the guidance was still in preparation. However, he needed further information in order to source and prepare for using the right personal protective equipment, for which the college was already paying “an extortionate amount”.
“There’s also the question of whether we can get enough of it in time, and the need to reassure and prepare our staff, young people and their parents. We need to know the rules we will be following,” added Potter, whose school teaches 260 students with learning difficulties, from years 7 to 14.
For suctioning procedures that may need to be carried out on children with cerebral palsy or chronic lung conditions, his school and others were considering FFp3 masks, which are typically used in the NHS for potentially infectious aerosol-generating procedures.
“I have to to get staff fitted for them, so I need to know what sort of rules we are following, as well as can we access enough of it,” Potter said. “I cannot fathom why detailed and robust guidance is so late in coming out. My fear is that there are people who are unsure on what the guidance should be.”
Jonty Clark, the chief executive of the Beckmead Trust, which specialises in support for traumatised young people with social, emotional and mental health issues as well as autism and challenging behaviour, said the sector was entering “uncharted territory”. He said “absolute terror” had been felt by many children and young people who had been deprived this year of the routine and support they relied on.