The Government is making 2,000 offers for the children of key workers to return to school and nursery... But, at a time when the population is being told to keep their distance from each other, how do you get toddlers to follow public health advice?
Jersey schools and nurseries will see some children return this week in order to allow their parents – who have been deemed “critical” to delivering the island’s response to the virus outbreak – to focus on their essential work.
It was announced yesterday that the Government would be reopening schools for the children and young people of health and care workers in the first instance and then looking at which other staff could qualify for the provision.
Today, a press conference with Children’s Minister Senator Sam Mézec, Assistant Minister for Education Deputy Jeremy Maçon and Director General of Children, Young People, Education and Skills (CYPES) Mark Rogers, shed more light on the childcare provision available to the families of critical workers and other vulnerable children.
Pictured: Minister for Children and Housing Senator Sam Mézec.
When asked by Express how the department plans to enforce current social distancing advice – keeping two metres away from one another and limiting all but necessary contact – within a nursery school environment, Mr Rogers acknowledged that it will be more difficult to get young children to understand the rules.
“What we’re emphasising for early years settings is that it is more difficult, clearly. You know, younger children are less susceptible to following the rules that we absolutely expect adults to follow."
Mr Rogers indicated that “wherever possible” the two-metre distance needs to be maintained and each child needs “at least four metres-squared available to them as their personal space.” The Director General also emphasised the importance of regular and thorough hand washing and respiratory hygiene.
In fact, the Government have issued advice specifically for early years and special schools that are opening during this period only for a select number of children.
This document details different measures which can be taken in nurseries to lower the risk of spreading the virus including creating a ‘Snuffle Station’ as a “fun way” for children to learn how to blow their noses hygienically and independently.
It’s also suggested that cleaning can become an activity for the children, with supervision, allowing them to contribute to keeping the learning environment clean.
Primarily the measures involve keeping surfaces, equipment and hands clean as well as increasing the amount of times that soft furnishings and linens are laundered.
Nurseries are also being advised to stagger outdoor activities, breaks and lunchtimes to avoid large groups and reduce the amount of group activities.
Elsewhere in the conference, Mr Rogers gave more detail around how the critical workers’ and vulnerable children have been selected.
Answering a question from Express about the consideration given to whether the children have underlying health conditions, the Director General said: “My colleague Mark Owers who is the Director of Children’s Services here has been leading the work on identifying the group of vulnerable people that we wish to make provision for and ensuring that we are really clear about all the needs that those youngsters have.
“So, for example, we haven’t just consulted with public health, each child with severe and complex needs has had an assessment by their paediatric consultant so we are really clear that some children are actually going to be better off at home, some children are going to be better off at school, based on that really forensic understanding of their needs and the best situation for them to be in.”
When asked if he was confident that no child will slip through the net of this Government response, the Children’s Minister added: “I certainly am confident... I’m confident that the discussions that are being had directly with families is enabling us to get a picture of what their family circumstances [are] and what the Government is able to do to support them. And right now, people in CYPES department, people are going above and beyond to make sure the solutions we can come up with for people who face particular vulnerabilities are as personalised as they need to ensure that their best interests are served by that rather than blanket solutions that don’t necessarily fit everybody.”
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