COVID-19: Home Educating Group Guidelines

Since schools have started back, we have been wanting to get back to HEing too, but like most people, I was getting very confused as to what we could or could not do in terms of meeting up with other people, so I decided to investigate. 

HEors get grouped with the out-of-school setting guidelines, but working your way through what’s what can be a bit daunting, so here are the highlights.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash
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***EDIT***

As of the 5th November 2020, lockdown 2.0 means another change in rules.

Home education can continue as set out in the original part of this article.

Home tutoring and out-of-school activities to support elective home education can continue to operate provided that they are primarily used by home educating parents as part of their arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education.
(https://www.gov.uk/guidance/education-and-childcare-settings-new-national-restrictions-from-5-november-2020#ooss)

But you may find that many of the community and out-of-school groups your child attends and sees as an important part of their overall education are closed.

Aside from education, there is essentially no socialisation for home-educated children outside of their immediate family until 2nd December 2020, when the restrictions may be lifted or reviewed depending on the current COVID situation.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november

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The Rule of Six

Currently, meeting up with other families in Cambridgeshire is absolutely fine (assuming there are no local restrictions in place when you are reading this – https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/local-restrictions-areas-with-an-outbreak-of-coronavirus-covid-19), as long as you remain at six people or fewer, regardless of age. (Although limiting the number of people you see, who you do not live with, in total over a short period of time is a good idea.)

You also have to abide by the latest government catchphrase, which is:

HANDS – Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.

FACE – Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

SPACE – Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).

Obviously, if anyone has experienced any symptoms of: 

  • a new, continuous cough
  • high temperature
  • loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

you should stay at home and arrange a test (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection)

If you can, meet up outside, if not keep the room well ventilated. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-meeting-with-others-safely-social-distancing/coronavirus-covid-19-meeting-with-others-safely-social-distancing)

Home-Educating Groups

It is still possible to meet up with other home educators for educational purposes.

In the government’s own words:

‘This applies only to group activities which have the principal purpose of education and should not be used to justify purely social activities beyond those permitted under the government’s general guidance on social distancing.’

Yes, I know socialising is synonymous with education for many a home educator, but if even the Minister for Education, Gavin Williamson, doesn’t understand HE (not forgiven for cancelling exams with nothing in place for HE students – yes, I am thoroughly bitter), it is no wonder that the government’s COVID committee don’t have a clue.

If you care to argue this point out in your everyday practice, expect a fine (https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/what-fines-breaking-lockdown-rules-19050448).

Home education gets classed with the out-of-school settings (OOSS), like after school clubs, but they can still be run from one of ‘the homes of others who have chosen to home educate’.

That means you can run an ‘educational’ HE group in your own home, someone else’s home, outside e.g. a park, or in another venue, e.g. village hall.

The host should ‘as far as possible’ follow the OOSS guidance (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protective-measures-for-holiday-or-after-school-clubs-and-other-out-of-school-settings-for-children-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/protective-measures-for-out-of-school-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak) and also the guidance on working safely in other people’s home (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes). 

HE Venue

If you are in the home:

‘Where possible all spaces should also be well ventilated using natural ventilation (opening windows) or ventilation units.

If you run tuition or activities out of your own home, you should consider whether a specific, well-ventilated room could be designated for this.’

In practice, this means seeing which room offers you the most space between group participants, and opening all windows and doors. 

‘When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable)’ (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes)

This means that if you can’t run the group while keeping people at least 1m apart, you really should be thinking about whether you should be running the group at all. It is tricky with small children, but adults in particular should be following this, and the space you are in should be allowing for this. 

‘Risk mitigating’ includes:

  • further increased frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible 
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other. 
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible 
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).

If you are in a hall, recreation ground etc.:

There is specific guidance for certain settings. Follow the link if you run your group anywhere other than in one of the group members’ homes. 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protective-measures-for-holiday-or-after-school-clubs-and-other-out-of-school-settings-for-children-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/protective-measures-for-out-of-school-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak#venue-specific-guidance

Numbers of Participants in an HE Group

The number in the group starts to get a bit hazy at this point, but children from different families are probably classed as coming from different ‘schools’, in which case, ‘you should seek to keep children in small, consistent groups of no more than 15’ with ‘at least one staff member’ per group. 

So you can have much bigger numbers in total, just as long as the sub-groups are no more than 15, the sub-groups do not mix with each other during the session, and ideally have minimal contact with each other outside of the session.

You are looking to keep multiple family interaction to a minimum, so if you do have two or more sub-groups, you would ideally like to keep siblings together. Obviously, this gets tricky if you have to separate by age, so this is not obligatory. It is really about trying to minimise mixing as far as is reasonably possible.

(https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protective-measures-for-holiday-or-after-school-clubs-and-other-out-of-school-settings-for-children-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/protective-measures-for-out-of-school-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak#consider-group)

Shared Resources in an HE Group

Ideally, everyone should have their own equipment and not share, however, sharing within your sub-group is ok as long as everything is cleaned regularly including frequently touched surfaces. 

If you have to share between sub-groups, all equipment should be cleaned before they are given to the next sub-group, or left unused and out of reach for a period of 48 hours (72 hours for plastics) between use by the different sub-groups.

Outdoor playground equipment should also be cleaned more frequently than usual (I know, I liked the word ‘usual’ in this context too), and where possible, between use by the different sub-groups of children. 

Obviously, the fewer bits and pieces everyone brings into a setting, the better.

The Loo

If you can get different sub-groups using different loos, fab! But many homes only have the one loo and other venues often only have the one male and one female loo, in which case try and limit the number using it at any one time. 

As always, encourage everyone to wash their hands thoroughly, with soap and running water for 20 seconds, after going to the loo, and clean all surfaces regularly, thoroughly and using standard cleaning products, e.g. detergent and bleach. 

How often you need to clean depends on usage, but generally, at least twice a day and between different sub-groups/groups.

Cleaning

There is a whole section on cleaning facilities when no one has symptoms or confirmed cases of COVID-19. Dig out your Marigolds and enjoy! https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings

Prevention Measures to Put in Place for HE Groups

There are a number of controls you have to put in place wherever your HE group meet, to help prevent the spread of COVID.

  1. Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does or have been advised by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, do not attend your setting.
  1. Clean hands more often than usual – wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with running water and soap and dry them thoroughly or use alcohol hand rub or sanitiser ensuring that all parts of the hands are covered.
  1. Encourage good respiratory hygiene, by promoting tissue use (the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach), no coughing in people’s faces etc. 
  1. Clean frequently touched surfaces more often than usual using standard products, such as detergents and bleach; see the guidance (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings).
  1. Minimise contact and mixing by altering, as much as possible, the environment (such as layout) and timetables (such as allowing for sufficient changeover time to clean the area between different classes or groups of children and ensuring areas do not become overcrowded).
  1. Where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

Numbers 1 to 4 must be in place in out-of-school settings, all the time

Number 5 must be properly considered and providers must put in place measures that suit their particular circumstances.

Number 6 applies in specific circumstances. See the section on personal protective equipment (PPE) for more information (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protective-measures-for-holiday-or-after-school-clubs-and-other-out-of-school-settings-for-children-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/protective-measures-for-out-of-school-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak#personal-protective-equipment-ppe).

Risk Assessment

Businesses with 5 or fewer employees do not have to write anything down, and as home educators, we would not be expected to produce one, however, if you are in any doubt, and you want to make sure that you have thought about all aspects of running an HE group during this pandemic, it is worth at least looking through what would be expected in a COVID -19 risk assessment: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/assets/docs/risk-assessment.pdf 

Response to Any Potential COVID-19 Infection

Should infection come into your ‘out-of-school setting’, you must,

  1. Engage with the NHS Test and Trace process (https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/nhs-covid-19/).
  1. Manage confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) amongst the out-of-school setting’s community. 

(Completely vague and completely meaningless – I’m guessing it means you inform all the other attendees’ parents, tell everyone to self-isolate, take a test and engage with the NHS Test and Trace process.)

  1. Contain any outbreak by following local health protection team advice.

To find your local health protection team: https://www.gov.uk/health-protection-team

Numbers 7 to 9 must be followed in every case where they are relevant.

COVID-19 Symptoms

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Most people with coronavirus have at least 1 of these symptoms.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms/

For a longer list of symptoms: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

And the NHS Check Your Symptoms’ page, where they ask you some questions to check if it might be coronavirus, and tell you what to do next: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19 

Local Restrictions

If your area is experiencing a local COVID-19 outbreak, you need to see the local restrictions page to find out what is and isn’t permissible where you group runs. 

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/local-restrictions-areas-with-an-outbreak-of-coronavirus-covid-19

In Short…

All HE groups (over 6 people; 6 or below can come under a social meeting):

  • making their settings as safe as possible for children and parents
  • promote the need to get tested if anyone is symptomatic
  • request that families self-isolate if they have been asked to do so
  • support each other when in isolation
  • keeping records of which children and parents are in which group/sub-group and saving this information securely for at least 21 days

You will not be expected to have an NHS QR code poster as, like schools, you should be keeping a register of attendance.

If anyone in your setting becomes unwell with one of:

  • a new, continuous cough
  • high temperature
  • loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

they should be sent home and advised to follow the (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance

Resources for Children

The government have even put together a list of COVID resources for kids (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protective-measures-for-holiday-or-after-school-clubs-and-other-out-of-school-settings-for-children-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/protective-measures-for-out-of-school-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak#annex-a-resources-to-help-children-learn-about-coronavirus-and-how-to-keep-themselves-and-others-safe)!!

e-Bug has produced a series of helpful coronavirus (COVID-19) posters on top of their KS1 and KS2 lesson plans:

e-Bug even have a page specifically for ‘home schooling’ families wanting to earn the Antibiotic Guardian Youth Badge – https://e-bug.eu/antibiotic-guardian-youth-badge/index.html

There is a hand-washing song courtesy of Busy Bees: https://cdn-busybees.ams3.digitaloceanspaces.com/downloads/handWashingSongActivity.pdf.

Lots of stuff on pacey.org.uk (Professional Association for Children and Early Years): https://www.pacey.org.uk/working-in-childcare/spotlight-on/coronavirus/supporting-children-in-your-setting-coronavirus/)

Author, Lydia Monks has collaborated with Professor James G Logan from The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and produced Dr Dog: https://www.lydiamonks.com/dr-dog/

And Bright Horizons have some general tips and further links to help you talk to children about COVID-19: https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/talking-to-children-about-covid19

Happy (and safe) home edding in these very weird times!!!

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