Spick & Span, and germ free

Whilst pupils have now returned to lessons following their long summer break, schools have remained busy over the summer months to ensure that facilities are kept in pristine condition, ready for the autumn term.

Contract cleaning organisations take full advantage of the quiet period to deep clean floors and ensure surfaces are thoroughly disinfected before pupils and staff pass through the doors once again.

Germs thrive in places where lots of people interact in close proximity. As such, schools are a perfect breeding ground for infections. Educational establishments have a duty of care to keep the environment clean and safe for pupils, and this can be achieved through regular, expert cleaning. Not only do clean schools provide optimal learning conditions and reduce absenteeism, but they also help to attract new students and assist with the recruitment and retention of the best teachers.

Illness is the most common reason for absence from schools, accounting for more than half (58 per cent) of school days missed. Consistent and effective day-to-day cleaning can reduce sickness levels dramatically and should involve vacuuming and dusting, emptying bins and wiping down surfaces, ensuring that facilities not only look pristine but germs are cleaned away. It is important to keep frequently touched areas such as door panels, bannisters, door handles and toilet flushing mechanisms immaculately clean to avoid bacteria spreading.

Rigorous health and safety systems should be in place to ensure cleaners, staff and pupils are not put at risk. The area that needs to be cleaned should be carefully researched and audited before any cleaning is undertaken, to make sure the right techniques are used. Environmental, quality and occupational health and safety management systems used by the contract cleaner should be independently assessed. This commitment gives schools confidence in the quality and reliability of the cleaning.

Equipment such as pure water systems, microfibre cloths and diamond encrusted twister pads can reduce or even eliminate the need for chemical cleaning agents.

And where cleaning products are required, chemical free ranges provide the same level of results as those with chemicals.

With tens of thousands of students using schools every day, there are many different demands on the cleaning team and there is often huge variety in the environments and surfaces to be cleaned. For example, some schools have listed buildings, whilst most also have gyms, kitchens, theatres, labs and studios with a variety of floor types and surfaces to be cleaned.

The variety of flooring materials used in schools has an influence on the type of cleaning equipment and techniques that are needed to clean each surface thoroughly and hygienically. The right cleaning procedures can also ensure that quality flooring lasts for as long as possible. Marble, wood, parquet and vinyl flooring will all need to be treated in different ways. All cleaning operatives should be fully trained on key issues, including health and safety, site specific requirements and new and existing cleaning methods.

As we all know, chewing gum’s sticky properties are particularly difficult to remove, and it is one of the main challenges in day to day cleaning, particularly in schools. Chewing gum is often trampled into carpets and stuck to the underside of tables.

There are a variety of methods to remove chewing gum from different surfaces. These include using a steam cleaning machine with a chewing gum solvent remover, applying ice to turn the chewing gum rigid before peeling it off, and high pressure jet washing.

Routine cleaning of IT equipment should also not be overlooked in the cleaning schedule. Even primary school children, as young as five, use computers nowadays, and they are particularly vulnerable to infection. Computers are regularly touched by hands, which are one of the most frequent transmission routes for many types of infections, because they come into direct contact with the mouth, nose and eyes. Lurking under those seemingly innocent computer keys are food debris, hair particles, dead skin, dust, not to mention bacteria, which is easily spread around schools.

A professional cleaning contractor will use a colour-coded cleaning system, utilising different coloured equipment to clean toilets, classrooms and food areas, ensuring that there is no cross-contamination between areas and the risk of epidemic outbreaks is minimised. Bacteria is easily spread around schools, yet not everyone is aware of the importance of using different cleaning equipment in different areas. You wouldn’t want the same cloths that are used to clean washrooms to also be used to clean kitchen surfaces. Therefore colour-coded mops, buckets, brooms and cloths for use in designated areas is recommended to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

Regular handwashing is crucial at all times but even more so when people are ill, coughing and spluttering. It is important for parents and staff to teach and encourage pupils to practise good hand-washing techniques, using soap and water to reduce the spread of infection. Hands must be cleaned thoroughly before and after eating; every time you blow your nose, cough or sneeze; after using the bathroom; before handling food or dirty equipment or rubbish; and any time hands are dirty.

It is beneficial to have hand sanitisers in your premises, especially in any kitchens, and by access doors, for people to use when they are entering and exiting the building.

School washrooms should always be correctly equipped with anti-bacterial soaps and dispensers. They need to be regularly cleaned by trained cleaning operatives and checked for contamination.

Security is essential within the school environment. Commercial organisations providing services to schools, such as contract cleaning, need to be vetted in the same way as any other staff working within schools.

While some organisations settle for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks – which replaced CRB checks – these are useless if the ID in question is fake, because fictitious people will not appear on criminal records. When Julius Rutherfoord recruit staff, they use passport and identity document scanning technology to scan every passport and ID document to check its authenticity against an international database. This technology enables imposters and fake passports or ID documents to be identified in seconds, and help provide a 100 per cent legal workforce.

In addition, staff can sign in and out with a short phone call, from a dedicated line within each of the schools’ premises that is linked automatically to the contract cleaner’s time and attendance system. The system provides extra security and also guarantees that the school gets the exact level of service they have paid for.