On the 9th of July, the Minister for Education confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September 2020. The Welsh Government has published updated operational guidance and learning guidance.
The Welsh Technical Advisory Group, which provides scientific and technical advice to Government during emergencies, recommends that schools “plan to open in September with 100% of pupils physically present on school sites, subject to a continuing, steady decline in the presence of COVID-19 in the community”.
The Welsh Government will provide an additional £29 million to schools to boost support for learners at crucial stages in their education from September.
- The equivalent of 600 extra teachers and 300 teaching assistants will be recruited throughout the next school year, targeting extra support at Years 11, 12 and 13, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable learners of all ages. This will support learners taking their A level and GCSEs in 2021 and those known to have been affected most. This targeted action is hugely important to the futures of these young people.
- Professional learning resources will be provided to support the new and existing teachers, in preparation for September. Staff will be recruited on a one-year fixed term contract and are expected to move into educational roles in the following school year. The support package, provided at a school level, could include extra coaching support, personalised learning programmes and additional time and resources for exam year pupils.
Advice on Facemasks within educational settings
On 23 November the Welsh Government announced that secondary school and college pupils and staff will be expected to wear face coverings on school premises at all times other than in the classroom. This does not apply to primary schools.
All visitors including parents picking up or dropping off their children on school premises will have to wear face coverings also.
Where a decision is made to introduce the use of face coverings in the event of new local restrictions being imposed, schools and colleges will need to communicate quickly and clearly to staff, parents and learners that the new arrangements require the use of face coverings in certain circumstances.
Increased measures to prevent virus transmission
Persons displaying COVID-19 symptoms should be sent home, and advised to arrange a test and ensure self-isolation guidance is adhered to. In this case, contact tracing processes will also commence.
It is not appropriate for schools to share information on potential COVID-19 cases in the school to wider staff, pupils or parents. Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) this is highly sensitive personal health information that should not be shared.
Although it is not possible to ensure a totally risk-free environment, the Welsh Government’s updated operational guidance includes comprehensive information on the protective measures schools should take to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus.
Social distancing in schools
Socially distancing must occur where possible by minimising contact between individuals where possible. However, with younger children this is at times not possible and can be difficult, therefore there will be an emphasis on forming groups of learners and ensuring separation of those groups.