Pupils may be sent home for ‘joke’ coughing or ‘inappropriate coronavirus humour’

Pupils could be excluded for “malicious coughing or sneezing” or making “inappropriate” jokes about the coronavirus pandemic, a school has warned.

And at a second school, any pupil refusing to follow hygiene routines and social distancing will immediately be moved to a separate area, leaders say.

The Ark Alexandra Academy in Hastings, east Sussex, set out a list of coronavirus “red lines” that will result in fixed-term exclusions for pupils breaching them.

The academy says “humorous, inappropriate comments or statements” related to Covid-19 and “purposeful physical contact with any other person” are off-limits and will risk the child being sent home.

“Deliberate or malicious” coughs or sneezes will lead to the same punishment, pupils and parents are being warned.

Scientists say coronavirus spreads particularly through coughing and sneezing, which release respiratory droplets that carry the virus further than just breathing.

In a letter to parents, Jerome Scafe, network associate principal of the academy, wrote: “Any student that needs to have a fixed-term exclusion during the pandemic will not return to main circulation until a risk assessment and we can be assured that the student will adhere to all our expectations.”

Schools are preparing to welcome children back into their classrooms in England this week and next.

Under government plans, a rota system limiting numbers of pupils attending schools could be implemented in local lockdowns.

Meanwhile, Ark Byron Primary Academy in Acton, west London, part of the same group as the Ark Alexandra, said in its letter to parents that if a pupil refuses to follow hygiene routines and social distancing instructions they will “immediately be moved to a separate area”.

It wrote: “Some behaviours (eg coughing deliberately on another person) that were previously ‘simply’ anti-social are now potentially extremely serious.”

The Department for Education (DfE) said pupils’ bad behaviour could worsen because of a lack of regular attendance and classroom discipline during the pandemic.

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The department said schools should clearly state the consequences for bad behaviour, particularly around new movement restrictions and hygiene rules.

In updated guidance for schools, it wrote: “It is likely that adverse experiences or lack of routines of regular attendance and classroom discipline may contribute to disengagement with education upon return to school, resulting in increased incidence of poor behaviour.”

The department added that schools should work with pupils “who may struggle to re-engage” by providing them with support “for overcoming barriers to attendance and behaviour and to help them re-integrate back into school life”.

A survey by the National Association of Head Teachers found that 97 per cent of schools plan to welcome back all pupils at the start of the autumn term.

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