COVID-19: Interpreting the Government Guidance in PESSPA Contexts

Schools and Coronavirus

Last week saw AfPE release their COVID-19: Interpreting the Government Guidance in a PESSPA Context: A practical self-review tool for risk assessment. A copy of this document can be accessed by clicking here. 

It is great to see some guidance being provided to assist the safe delivery of PESSPA within educational settings and wider contexts. In this post we aim to add some examples of how this guidance can be implemented in practice.

The advice was broken down into nine areas for departments and providers to consider.


Activities taking place in PE lessons and Physical activity sessions should be strictly non-contact and these conditions shared with the pupils.

  • Share expectations and new working routines with pupils.
  • Consider an induction style lesson where you walk through the new lesson routines including how to enter and exit the lesson, change, create your own working space etc.
  • Explain why non-contact is important and what things have to be avoided including examples like sharing equipment and what an appropriate distance between individuals looks like.

Agree what learning is appropriate (including the relationship between face-to-face and remote education), for example, identify curriculum priorities, agree revised expectations and required adjustments in practical lessons, and any approaches to ‘catch up’ support.

  • Establish new operating procedures a Covid-19 PE policy that clearly states what is an is not acceptable practice in relation to government guidance and regularly update this document as new information and guidance is provided.
  • Consider whether classroom teaching can be continued remotely rather than face to face.
  • As different year groups maybe returning at different stages perhaps identify what provision and measures are specifically in place for each year group.

Ensure you have considered the impact on staff and pupils with protected characteristics, including race and disability, in developing your approach.

  • Consider how pupils who require additional support or alternative provision are to be catered for including accessibility and personal support.
  • In some cases specific guidance and measures will need to be put in place for specific pupils so that they can access learning whilst being safe.

Protective Measures and Hygiene

Decide the physical and organisational structures needed to limit risks and limit movement around the building(s) (for example, classroom layouts, entry and exit points, staggered starts and break times, class sizes, lunch queues, use of communal staff areas).

  • Approach your maintenance team can they mark out grids on your playing fields two meters apart to define individual working zones.
  • Can they paint markers on the floor two meters apart to assist queuing.
  • Can classes have staggered start times to avoid crowding in corridors and changing rooms.
  • Can changing rooms be avoided all together if pupils are all ready changed?

Agree how safety measures and messages will be implemented and displayed around school.

  • Have consistent signage to ease understanding.
  • Can you have key signage around the school where social distancing might be an issue to remind pupils. Places such as the lunch hall / canteen, entrances and exits of school and classrooms.
  • Can you introduce a one way corridor system to improve social distancing.

Ensure there is sufficient tissues available for ensuring good respiratory hygiene – i.e. ‘catch it, bag it, bin it’ approach.

  • Encourage pupils to bring in their own hand sanitiser and tissues, and have spares for those who run out or do not have any.
  • Explain and reinforce the importance of regular hand washing and good hygiene to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • Ensure there are enough bins placed around school that are more frequently emptied.

Changing areas

If used, these should be cleaned after every lesson – Wiping of surfaces is a reasonable approach.

  • This could end up being a big job – define changing areas so you focus on cleaning the areas that have been and are regularly being used.
  • Perhaps encourage students to wipe down their own changing station prior to exiting the changing rooms.
  • Leave enough time between lessons to clean the changing room ready for the next lesson and class.

Attending school with PE kit on will limit the need to use changing rooms.

  • Government advice is that children should wear clothing to school that is easy to wash. With parents washing clothes daily. Therefore blazers and school trousers / skirts and tights may not be the most favourable school uniform during this time.
  • Encourage pupils to wear PE kit to school or at least on the days where PE is timetabled. If this can not be achieved perhaps stagger changing times or consider whether the activity planned requires pupils to be in PE kit.
  • Establish these expectations early on with SLT and communicate this with parents and pupils as early as possible.
  • Ordinarily pupils who forget their kit may be provided with spare PE kit. This might not be feasible during this time or if spare clean kit is used it must be washed and/or removed immediately to avoid reuse.

Ensure sufficient standard cleaning equipment is available in all changing areas.

  • Have a readily available and well stocked (and checked) supply of cleaning products around your working spaces, in the PE office, gym, changing rooms, classroom, by equipment containers.
  • Encourage regular cleaning of equipment and working areas before and after their use.

Social distancing measures still apply and marking out areas which cannot be used will help you to manage the area effectively.

  • Clearly define working areas and the flow of people from one area to another.
  • Restricting access to certain areas will reduce cleaning time and reduce the area of the working spaces that need to be managed.

Teaching areas

Encourage outdoor PE and PA to support social distancing.

  • Outdoor environments are more conducive in ensuring social distancing measures are adhered to, without corridors and entrances and exits. However, having said that if the weather is inclement working indoors is fine as long as the same social distancing measure are adhered to. It may take longer for pupils to enter and exit lessons and more cleaning may need to take place so this should be factored into the lesson time.

Students should work in their own zone which may be marked out, depending on allocated teaching space. PE outside could be preferable to indoor PE.

  • Zones may help students remain 2m apart from one another.
  • If however the activity does not remain in one place like an orienteering course reiterate before pupils set off that social distancing is to be observed and monitor the movement of pupils.

Social distancing within lessons

You should ensure that all lesson activity adheres to the social distancing rules in place at the time of delivery. This means team games involving contact are currently not possible.

  • Regularly check for updates to see how and when restrictions are being lifted. It might mean having a restrictive curriculum in the short term but this will ensure all pupils are safe. Once established working routines are in place the range of sports and activities on offer could be expanded.

One solution is for each student to have their own zone which they can work in.

  • This has been mentioned previously this might be good practice when working in a static space such as conducting Yoga, Fitness etc. But if the the activity requires pupils to move from place to place consideration of how to maintain social distancing must be considered.

Group sizes

Class sizes should adhere to Government guidance and be reduced to a level where social distancing rules can be applied.

  • Each school will be different in class size number dependant on their facilities and potentially their individual school approach. The main thing is that you must be confident that social distancing can be managed with your class size.

PE Clothing

The school will need to agree on modifications/adaptions on clothing expectations. It may be that you would like your students to attend in their PE kit for the whole day on the day when they have a timetabled physical education lesson in order to limit or avoid the use of the changing areas. This is a whole school decision. You may want to consider back up clothing for when the weather is poor.

  • Establish with SLT what the new uniform will be and how this might impact upon PE. As mentioned previously avoiding changing rooms might be advantageous as long as the pupils are able to exercise safely and hygienically.
  • What happens if spare kit is needed and how do these pupils get changed.

PE equipment

Equipment will need to be cleaned after each use. It should be noted that this a whole school issue and all departments/subjects will be facing the same issues so this should be a whole school solution.

  • Some equipment might be difficult to clean where as others may not be for example, a tennis ball is comparatively very hard to clean in comparison to a windball. Considering alternative equipment that is easy and quick to clean might be advantageous when planning lessons.
  • Having enough equipment for each pupil may also be problematic. Therefore, if equipment is to be used each pupil should have their own in each lesson rather than sharing equipment between pupils.

You will need to make a decision on which equipment is easier to build into lessons and take into account the cleaning regime at the end of the sessions.

  • Similar to the points above you might need extra support in supervising the cleaning of equipment.
  • Cleaning of equipment and workspaces prior and at the end of lessons should be given adequate time in order to ensure it is done effectively.

Hand washing routines will mean more equipment is available to pupils, however it is often easier to plan for and discourage the sharing of equipment to mitigate against virus transmission.

  • Set regular hand washing routines if possible at the beginning and end of every lesson or prior to touching shared equipment.
  • Reinforce what effective hand washing is (20seconds at least) and maybe also have some moisturiser at the ready too to combat dry and sore hands.

Washing hands/ hand sanitiser

Opportunities for hand washing before and after the lesson must be available.

  • Consider how sinks will be used whilst maintaining social distancing.

Hand sanitiser should be readily available for students to use throughout the day. This is in addition to regular hand washing.

  • Place hand sanitiser at entrances and exit of classrooms and working spaces and encourage regular use before, after and when appropriate during lessons.

If you have any other ideas or strategies that are currently being trialed in your school / department please comment on this post and share your ideas.

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