Hundreds of handwashing stations will be set up in schools across County Durham as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Durham County Council has made 800 portable hand washing stations available to schools that can be set up in classrooms or outdoor areas to allow pupils to wash their hands regularly.
Currently, a large number of schools in the county have insufficient hand washing facilities due to the age or layout of buildings. In some cases, classrooms do not have sinks and pupils can only wash their hands in the schools’ toilet blocks.
To mitigate the transmission of coronavirus within schools, classes and year groups are currently on staggered break times and social-distancing measures have been put in place to keep pupils safe. Even with these measures, the use of toilet blocks is restricted for safety making the opportunity for pupils to wash their hands regularly with soap throughout the day difficult.
Many head teachers have also reported that the use of hand sanitisers is not always safe or easy to manage, and overuse is causing adverse skin reactions for some children. As a result of this, the council has been working closely with head teachers to come up with a solution and enable safer hand washing practices for its pupils.
The council has bought hand washing stations in bulk from the company Happy Tap, a social enterprise based in Cambodia and recognised by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, which creates fun and brightly coloured portable hand washing stations to encourage children to wash their hands regularly in an accessible way.
Happy Tap is a social enterprise with a mission of enabling safe handwashing for 10,000,000 people by 2024. To support this mission, for every ten units sold in the UK one unit will be donated to a school in a low-income country, extending its impact to children who face significant hygiene risks on a daily basis. As a result of the council’s commitment to enabling safe handwashing in the county’s schools, 80 units will be donated to schools in Vietnam benefitting more than 2,000 children.
The units can be installed in every classroom or outside school buildings, on a table or trestle in the yard, and will allow pupils to wash their hands regularly and safely while coordinating with the other secure measures that are in place.
The council has arranged for the hand washing stations to be shipped to the county at costs which make it possible for schools to buy multiple stations at a fraction of what they could pay for an equivalent product. As a result, especially in buildings that would not otherwise be adaptable, this method provides the means for children to combat coronavirus in the most important way by frequent, thorough handwashing.
The council is the first local authority in the UK to use this method as an accessible and practical way for schools to ensure pupils are safe during the pandemic and its procurement team have worked quickly and efficiently to make this happen in response to the outbreak.
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “It is important that our pupils and their parents or carers can feel confident about staying safe while attending school and that the right measures are in place to prevent the transmission of the virus between pupils and staff, and their families.
“These stations will be an extra addition to the existing safety measures in schools for those that need them, enabling regular handwashing to become an important part of pupils’ daily routine and complimenting the other measures that have been put in place to facilitate social distancing, and reduce crowding in areas such as toilet blocks. The addition of the Happy Tap stations means pupils and their families can feel assured that as much as possible is being done to help prevent further spread of the virus.”