Removing soft toys and sealing off books in classrooms is ‘tragic’ and ‘misplaced’ says leading scientist

Removing soft toys and sealing off books in primary school classrooms is “tragic” and “misplaced” a leading scientist has said.

As schools prepare to reopen their doors to pupils in reception, year one and year six, some teachers have warned that young children will have to stand in small hoops in the playground and even do their own first aid. 

But Prof Robert Dingwall, a member of the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said schools should focus on regular hand washing and ensure thorough cleaning at the end of the day, warning that “gold plating” sensible measures would deter families from returning to normal life. 

“Children are being told they won’t be able to take artwork home with them or touch the books but the notion that the virus could be transmitted on a sheet of paper is extreme,” he told the Telegraph.

“There are very small theoretical possibilities but they should not be interpreted with this sort of behaviour, especially if children are washing their hands regularly.

“That is the most important thing and is perhaps more difficult with young children, but it remains the one and only most effective thing you can do.

“Schools are not hospitals, they do not need infection control in quite the same way.”

The Department of Education has recommended that play equipment should be cleaned between groups of children using it and that “soft furnishings, soft toys and toys that are hard to clean” are removed from classrooms.

The National Education Union (NEU) went beyond this, publishing a lengthy checklist for teachers that urges them not to mark homework or allow children to take books home.

But Prof Dingwall added: “Those who are too rigorous about it will not be doing their children any favours. 

“It’s unsustainable. In these highly sanitised classrooms, the teachers will be miserable, the children will be miserable.

“I’ve seen teachers demanding hazmat suits. I mean, what are they doing when they walk down the street, or pop to the shop? It’s a sense of proportionality that is missing.”

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