The UK has been hit devastatingly by the coronavirus. Over 400,000 cases since March - and those numbers are still rising. We began to see a slight slither of light at the end of the dreary tunnel in July, as daily reported cases and deaths steadily decreased. However, we're beginning to retreat into that cave as it is exposed that these numbers are rapidly increasing again. We all have our own opinions as to what caused this, but one thing for sure is that it is causing much anxiety and panic amongst the public. This apprehension is seemingly prevalent for youth, as they begin to return to schools.

Schools have had to come up with some new procedures over the summer to keep their students safe. School is an environment where safety is a priority above almost everything else, and, usually, UK schools and colleges are great at creating a secure and sheltered place for children. However, this pandemic is something they have never faced before, and so it is understandable that many have struggled.

Many have resorted to the "bubble system" – a way to reduce space needed for social distancing by allowing each year to be in a "bubble", simultaneously limiting the spread of cases amongst the whole school. The idea of the bubble system is that if one person was tested positive for the virus, they, and the entire year, must isolate at home for two weeks, including the parents. However, many criticise that this is somewhat ineffective as there can be up to 300 pupils per year, who go home to their families, go shopping, may meet some friends, and so really, there is not as much containment as there should be.

When asked to discuss if she thinks schools are doing enough, sixth form student Miss Petit stated that "I can see how, on the one hand, schools are trying hard to keep students safe and try [to] stop spread the disease, however, I feel that perhaps more could be done to actually enforce these measures rather than just setting them out in writing."

She then proceeded to describe the measures in place at her school. "We have a one-way-system, year group "bubbles", and desks are cleaned after we use them in class. I think that these measures are effective because they stop year groups from mixing." She then debated how perhaps masks would be a good solution too. "This may make students feel safer and help to stop the spread of disease, although, I see how by not wearing masks it could make school feel more normal."

Masks aren't compulsory in all schools. This means that no matter what "bubble systems" are in place, the virus is still able to spread from person to person, year to year. At my school, we're "allowed to wear masks if [we] want to", but it's not compulsory, and so most students don't wear one. Arguably, especially when you're new to a school, a mask can be somewhat limiting in being able to communicate and getting to know people. But how much socialising occurs in corridors? Is it really so much effort to wear a face-covering when going from one lesson to another?

Another pupil, Miss de Monchy, argued that "I think that schools are probably doing the best that they can considering the circumstances since it is such a big gathering of people. My school has a new alarm which means that [when] the first alarm goes off, everyone leaves, and then [when] a second alarm goes off, people […] go in, so there's not a lot of mixing. There's also a bubble system, hand sanitising, and wiping down desks. I just think the government has to be prepared for more cases in hospitals and hopefully avoid a national lockdown as that will not be good for anyone's mental health or the economy."

Miss de Monchy seems to think that schools are doing what they can at the moment. But inadequate hand gel, negligently wiping down surfaces, dysfunctional bubble systems – is it enough?

Statistics suggest not, as the child's commissioner states that 1 in 20 pupils are off school with COVID related issues. Many children are currently sitting at home during the school day, either bored out of their minds or struggling with online school after being told to stay at home because they have mild symptoms. But this is just a sneak peek of what's to come. With a long winter of common colds and flu on its way, how can we distinguish what's a cold and what's COVID? Especially with the limited tests available, it will be almost impossible to be completely confident that all pupils are safe without sending anyone with even just a tickly throat home.

I asked a year 12 student, Miss Watkinson, about her worries concerning the virus. "I am quite worried about the virus, like anyone, because I think it's the uncertainty […] we don't know anything at the moment - it could get worse, it could improve, but there's so much uncertainty, [especially] with the effect it's already had globally and it's only been around for six months!".

Miss Watkinson continued to discuss how she thinks schools aren't doing enough, just like how she believes "no one is". "I mean, in March we could stay inside, watch Netflix, and not isolate because we weren't in contact with people. Whereas now, getting back into life, we have to change our behaviour. I think that's what the government isn't doing well – they're not making us realise we're not going back to normal, and we do have to change our behaviour."

As a sixth form pupil myself, I am becoming increasingly worried about the lack of social distancing rules in schools across the country. Hand gel facilities, antibacterial wipes, bubbles, and the occasional one-way-system… it just doesn't seem like enough to me. And I am not afraid to admit that, right now, like many students and staff, I do not feel safe at school.

We need more handwashing facilities, more face coverings, more social distancing. Hands. Face. Space. If schools are to remain open, there needs to be a lot more measures in place, and we need them now.