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School reopening: how to approach cleaning
Find out what changes you'll need to make to your regular cleaning arrangements so you can keep everyone safe as you fully reopen in September. Plus download our checklist for a deep clean in the event of a suspected case of COVID-19, so if the situation does arise, you can be confident you've got everything covered.
29 July 2020: We've updated this article to reflect the government's updated COVID-19 guidance on general cleaning in non-healthcare settings, which clarifies how often you should clean certain surfaces and objects. There were no changes to the existing guidance on cleaning after a suspected case of coronavirus.
Increase your regular cleaning schedule
Speak to your cleaning staff to agree additional hours for cleaning
You don't need to deep clean on a regular basis (only when someone has symptoms of, or confirmed COVID-19).
However, enhanced regular cleaning is required, and your cleaning staff will need to clean:
- Frequently touched objects (see the section directly below to find out which objects this applies to) – at least twice a day, and between use by different groups
- Rooms and shared areas – more frequent cleaning, and between use by different groups
Try to reduce clutter, and remove items that are difficult to clean, throughout your school where you can to make cleaning easier.
Focus on high-contact and shared areas
Your cleaning staff should use standard cleaning products (such as detergents and bleach) to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
As a minimum, twice a day (one of these times should be at the start or the end of the day) your cleaning staff should wipe down frequently touched objects and surfaces like:
- Door and window handles
- Work surfaces (including desks and tables)
- Bathroom facilities (including taps and flush buttons)
- Remote controls
- Computer equipment (including keyboards and mouse devices)
- Classroom resources, such as books and games
- Light switches
- Reception desks
- Fingerprint scanners
- Communal kitchens or canteens (speak to your catering staff about whether they'll be doing this)
And between use by different groups, your cleaning staff should clean shared areas and resources, such as:
- Sports, art and science equipment
- Outdoor playground equipment
- Hard toys (you shouldn't have soft toys in school during coronavirus)
- Dining halls
If it's not possible to clean equipment between groups, store the equipment for 48 hours (or 72 hours for plastics) between uses.
Talk to your cleaning staff about these areas of focus – they may be doing this already, but there's obviously heightened expectations for cleanliness currently so you'll want to be assured.
Don't ask your teaching or support staff to clean
Avoid asking non-cleaning staff to do daily cleaning like washing bathrooms, or cleaning desks or floors, unless it's in their job description.
If you're concerned you don't have enough cleaning staff to carry out the enhanced regular cleaning outlined above, contact your local authority (LA) for advice.
If you don't have enough cleaning products
You can either:
- Get in touch with public sector buying organisation partners (for example ESPO, YPO, NEPO) about supplies of soap, anti-bacterial hand gel and cleaning products
- Order products through the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) safer working supplies website
If you've had a suspected case of COVID-19 on your premises
You'll need to do a deep clean of the affected areas.
It's unlikely that you'll need to close the school to do a deep clean. Your local health protection team will contact you to carry out a risk assessment and advise if this is necessary.
Check if your cleaning staff will carry out a deep clean
Cleaning staff may not feel equipped or comfortable to carry out out a deep clean, and some unions are advising against it.
To check this, speak with:
- Your cleaning provider, if you outsource
- Your cleaning staff directly, if you keep it in-house
If your cleaning staff aren't comfortable carrying out the deep clean, speak to your LA to find a suitable specialist cleaning provider.
Or, find an approved supplier from the Department for Education's (DfE's) list.
State-funded schools: If you're having to cover extra cleaning costs in the event of a suspected case (e.g. if you've had to bring in a specialist provider to do a deep clean), you can be reimbursed for this (see the section below on extra funding).
Download our checklist for a deep clean
Give this checklist to the cleaning staff or provider carrying out a deep clean in the event of a suspected case of coronavirus.
This checklist is based on Public Health England’s guidance for COVID-19 decontamination in non-healthcare settings that schools are being signposted towards in the DfE’s guidance for full opening of schools.
When carrying out a deep clean
As a minimum, cleaning staff need to wear disposable gloves and aprons – they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds once they remove these.
If there's a higher level of contamination (e.g. the symptomatic individual has slept somewhere) or there's visible contamination with body fluids, you might need to provide cleaning staff with a surgical mask or full-face visor. The local health protection team's risk assessment will let you know if you need this equipment.
Make sure staff use 1 of the following cleaning products:
- A combined detergent/disinfectant solution at a dilution of 1,000 parts per million available chlorine
- A household detergent, followed by a disinfectant with the same dilution as above
- If they use an alternative disinfectant, check that it’s effective against enveloped viruses
Check you can meet the waste disposal requirements
You'll need a safe and secure place (away from children) where you can store waste from suspected cases until the individual's test results are known, and for at least 72 hours if they test positive.
If you don't have an appropriate place to store the waste, you'll need to arrange for a collection of 'category B' infectious waste by:
- Your local waste collection authority (if they currently collect your waste), or
- A specialist clinical waste contractor
Extra funding is available for certain cleaning costs
State-funded schools: the government will reimburse you for certain additional costs that you're unable to cover from your existing budget. This doesn’t include your regular cleaning costs, but it does include:
- Extra cleaning costs that you've incurred for keeping your school open during the Easter and/or summer half-term holidays
- Deep cleaning your school due to a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus
Read more about this funding in another of our articles.
This article is based on:
The following government (DfE) guidance for:
- Full opening of schools
- Implementing protective measures against coronavirus in education settings
- Extra funding for coronavirus-related costs at state-funded schools
And the following Public Health England guidance for:
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