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Changes to learning and teaching in schools from September

First published:
14 July 2020
Last updated:

What are the plans for schools for September?

On the 9th July the Minister for Education confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September. A copy of the Minister’s announcement can be accessed.

The Welsh Government has published updated operational guidance and learning guidance in readiness for September.

What is the basis for this decision?

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 paper which includes this advice has been published and can be accessed.

What date does the Autumn term start?

The autumn term will start on 1st September and schools that can accommodate all pupils from the start of the term should do so. However, there will be a period of flexibility in recognition that schools may want to focus on priority year groups, such as those new to secondary schools, those sitting exams next summer or those in reception classes. This will also allow time, up to a fortnight, for any planning and reorganisation. Schools will be working on their plans and will inform parents, carers and pupils of their arrangements.

There are concerns that some pupils may have fallen behind with their learning. What is Welsh Government doing to address this issue from September?

We appreciate that for some learners going back to normal will continue to be a challenge and for some lockdown will have had a significant impact on their learning and engagement in school education.  The time learners spend in school over June/July 2020 is explicitly focused on wellbeing and preparation for a return to learning in autumn 2020.  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. A range of teaching approaches will be relevant, including blended learning.

Who should schools inform if a learner or staff member has displayed symptoms of COVID-19?

Persons displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should be sent home, and advised to arrange a test and ensure self-isolation guidance is adhered to. For learners, parents should be advised to arrange a test for their child. If the test comes back positive, the contact tracing system will commence for that case.

Contract tracing is done on an anonymised basis as default. Contact tracers will get in touch with contacts only if identified from a positive case and will only share who that person is, if permission is given. If the contact tracers deem other learners or staff as contacts (utilising the definition of a contact), they will request that information from the school and take forward that contact tracing (which includes informing others that they are contacts) as the experts.

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 personal health information which is highly sensitive and shouldn’t be widely shared. From a contact tracing perspective, contact tracer’s actions are covered under the health specific article of GDPR, which is why they are able to request that information from sources such as schools (and also handle appropriately and sensitively in health-specific systems).

Contact tracers will get in touch with the school if there is a suspected cluster or potential outbreak, where they will ask for information from the school as to who was in the classroom if needed.

Pupils and staff should only request a test if they are symptomatic, not if they suspect contact with a potentially positive case.

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