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Guidance on home education during coronavirus alert level 4.

First published:
29 January 2021
Last updated:

Overview

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 impose restrictions on gatherings and movement of people into and out of Wales. The Regulations set out restrictions which apply to four different alert levels; Alert Level 4 apply in the most serious situations. This has been done to control the spread of coronavirus in Wales and to help protect the public from the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). 

Wales was placed in alert level 4 from 6.00pm on 19 December 2020, this was in light of health advice pointing to the very serious risks posed by the new variant of coronavirus. This new variant poses a much greater risk of transmission and it is particularly important every individual take all the steps they can to avoid any risk of people being exposed to the virus or spreading the virus. The safest option is to stay at home and not socially mix at all. Individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable should take extra precautions to minimise their contact with others. 

COVID-19 and home education

This advice applies to home educated children who are not registered on any school roll. This does not apply to children who:

  • receive home tuition provided by the local authority (learners who are unable to attend school for whatever reason, home tuition is education other than at school (EOTAS) provision)
  • are home schooled and receive work set and marked by the school as in the case where schools were locked down in early 2020 or in the case of children and young people who need to isolate at home. This may be referred to as blended learning

In order to minimise the spread of infection, wherever possible provision for home educated learners should take place online/virtually. Where this is not possible the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 which came into force on 19 December 2020, includes an exception to the restriction on gatherings in private dwellings where the person is participating in the gathering for a purpose that is reasonably necessary and there is no reasonably practicable alternative. The regulations provide examples of purposes for which it may be reasonably necessary for a person to participate in a gathering, include accessing or receiving educational services. Therefore, home educated learners will be able to gather in a private dwelling for the purpose of accessing or receiving educational services but only if there is no reasonably practicable alternative. The home owner should keep numbers to an absolute minimum – large numbers will unnecessarily increase the risk of infection transfer. This applies only to group activities that have the principal purpose of education and should not be used to justify purely social activities beyond those permitted under the current alert level. The current alert level is level 4.

Where a child or young person who is home educated takes part in group learning at the home of another home educator, the host should, as far as possible, follow the statutory guidance for working safely during coronavirus in other people’s homes.

This gives practical considerations about how safe practices can be applied when working in someone’s home and, where this is not safe or practical, suggestions for alternative arrangements for delivering services through remote contact, such as telephone or video calls. This guidance is also applicable to tutors employed by home educating families.  

Strict adherence to COVID safety measures should be applied. Under no circumstances should you visit the home of other home educators where someone in the household or extended household, is self-isolating or showing COVID-type symptoms, or if you or anyone in your household has symptoms or is self-isolating. This includes children of all ages. You must also not permit anyone to come to your home for home education purposes if you or anyone in your household (including children) are self-isolating because they have symptoms, have tested positive or have been identified as a contact of a positive case.

In the ever-changing landscape, national requirements for infection control may change quickly. Families are advised to check regularly on the current situation on the Welsh Government website and to comply with national and local requirements that may be in place.

Social distancing

All reasonable measures must be taken to maintain 2 metre distancing while gathered for educational purposes. However, there are situations in which it might not be possible or appropriate to maintain a 2 metre distance, such as where young children cannot understand the concept of physical distancing, and where appropriate support from a parent or adult may be required to help a young child with their learning. 

Much of the spread of coronavirus has happened in people’s homes. While some people might be able to keep their houses relatively safe for visitors, people inevitably behave differently at home. We also cannot check people’s private homes like we can check that shops, cafes, workplaces and other public places are following the rules. This is why the rules have to be tougher in private homes.

Shielding

Shielding was initially introduced between March and August 2020 when the virus was new and the Chief Medical Officer for Wales advised those most at risk to serious harm from coronavirus to stay at home to protect themselves.

This guidance should be considered alongside the ‘Guidance on protecting people defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable from coronavirus (COVID-19) previously known as ‘shielding’.

It is recommended that in cases where someone within the household is required to shield, home education takes place remotely or online.

The Shielding Patients List has been maintained so that we can write again to this group with any updates or if the advice on shielding changes. As this new advice represents a change, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales will write again directly to people on the Shielding Patient List with advice on how to keep safe with the increased cases of coronavirus in our communities.

Independent schools

Where a child is receiving most or all of their education at one setting, families will need to be aware of the regulations regarding independent schools.

In cases where five or more learners of compulsory school age or one or more learners of compulsory school age with a statement of special educational needs receives all or most of their education at a single setting, that setting must register with the Welsh Government as an independent school. Failure to do so would result in the setting operating outside of the law.

Remote methods of home education should be used wherever possible. People of any age, adult or child, should not permit others into their home or go to another home if:

  • they or someone they live with is extremely clinically vulnerable
  • they or someone they live with has symptoms, has tested positive, is self-isolating or has been advised to self-isolate as a contact of a positive case
  • someone they wish to receive education with or from are in any of these categories

What to do in case of an emergency

In an emergency, such as an accident or a fire, it would not be reasonable for people to stay 2 metres apart if it would be unsafe. If anyone is involved in giving assistance to others, they should make sure they comply with the usual sanitation advice immediately afterwards (fully washing hands, safely disposing of any gloves or other PPE).

St John's Ambulance have updated their guidance on emergency assistance during the pandemic. They recommend that first aiders do not perform rescue breaths on anyone requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

For more information, make sure you have checked the St John’s Ambulance emergency advice.  

Frequently asked questions

How can home educating families get together for the purpose of education?

Home educated children and young people may form a ‘learning bubble’; in order to gather in a private dwelling for the purpose of receiving education only. Home educated children and young people should not move between homes or bubbles. The learning bubble is not interchangeable with other learning bubbles, nor should children and young people form multiple bubbles. 

I want to move to another bubble that is delivering a different subject?

We would strongly advise against this in order to mitigate the risk of infection transmission and would suggest virtual/online education provision as the first choice. Once the bubble is established your child should remain within that bubble. Children and young people should not belong to multiple bubbles; this is important for Test, trace and protect purposes. 

Can I stay with my child while education is being delivered?

We would strongly advise the host limits the number of adults present in their house at any one time. In addition, we would recommend that the 2 metre social distancing rule is applied for learners and parents/carers. If the parents/carers do not play a direct role in provision of the learning, nor are they providing support to a learner with additional needs then they should not be present.

This will help to reduce the risk of infection transmission. This is because a lot of people are catching coronavirus in people’s homes. While some people might be able to keep their houses relatively safe for visitors, people tend to behave differently at home and are less likely to maintain social distance.  

We understand that there may be some children who are reluctant or who have additional learning needs which would mean separation from their parent/carer may cause them anxiety, or they need parental help with their learning activities. In such cases we would advise that other options be considered such as meeting outside (in line with current guidance) when weather permits or attending gatherings virtually/online. Parents/carers will need to be flexible and consider what is in the best interests of their child, while also maintaining compliance with the current COVID restrictions.

What if someone in the bubble becomes ill?

If someone within the learner bubble displays symptoms or tests positive for Coronavirus then the entire bubble – adults and children – must self-isolate for the required period.

How long can the meetings be?

There is currently no scientific evidence on the duration of an indoor event or activity which might be acceptable. However, families should be aware that indoor settings are seen as higher risk of infection transmission, and the risk increases with the number of households in one space and the length of time in that setting.

Do the normal COVID-19 health and safety rules apply?

Yes, much of the spread of coronavirus has happened in people’s homes and children can contract the virus and pass it on as well as adults. It is vital that the rules are adhered to. As well as recording contact details for learners in bubbles to support Test, trace and protect, the usual health and safety requirements in respect of COVID-19 apply including:

  • always following social distancing rules, increasing space between individuals
  • minimising contact between individuals as much as possible
  • paying extra attention to hand washing and respiratory hygiene, in order to reduce risk
  • ensuring enhanced cleaning of shared areas, such as hallways, bathroom/cloakroom, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, such as doorbells/knockers, door handles, stairway banister, chairs and tables, using products such as detergents and disinfectants
  • wearing of face coverings  is recommended particularly for adults. As an additional precautionary measure older children of primary school age may be comfortable wearing face coverings (children under 11 are not required to wear face coverings)
  • no sharing of work surface space and clean work surfaces thoroughly after each use
  • no passing/sharing of documents, books, papers, pens, materials, resources, tablets, laptops etc. If equipment has to be shared it must be cleaned thoroughly after each use
  • where possible ensuring appropriate ventilation. Ventilation should commence ahead of the gathering and continue after it has finished and should be aired thoroughly between sessions. It is however recognised that there will be a need to optimise the amount of fresh air entering a room while balancing this with thermal comfort (maintaining a reasonable temperature)
  • ensuring children and young people bring their own refreshments and preventing them from sharing food, utensils, etc.

Other health and safety considerations

  • Consider the safest way to travel – to avoid catching or spreading the virus, you should choose a method of transport that enables you to keep a safe distance from others, noting that face coverings must be worn on public transport by people over the age of 11.
  • Knocking or ringing the doorbell – the doorknocker or bell is probably the most frequently touched item with which you are likely to come into contact in the course of a face-to-face gathering. You may wish to telephone the host to let them know you have arrived. Alternatively consider using a knuckle to ring the doorbell, as you are less likely to use that to touch your face. Householders should clean the bell or knocker regularly.
  • Hygiene stations – as a host you may want to consider setting up a hygiene station just inside the entrance to your home to reduce the possibility of infection getting into or coming out of the home. If the host does not have a 'hygiene station' in place, simply ask them upon arrival (and again upon departure) if you can use their bathroom to wash your hands. Remember to follow the NHS handwashing advice, including turning off the tap with a disposable towel or your elbow. Householders should clean toilet and bathroom facilities thoroughly and regularly, preferably after each use. Children should be helped to use the toilet and wash their hands thoroughly (according to their age and abilities), and all adults, including assistants, should wash their hands thoroughly before and after assisting children. Older children and young people should be reminded regularly of the importance of washing their hands thoroughly and often and not touching their face.
  • Avoid handshakes or hugs when arriving at gatherings. While it may be normal for you to greet friends and family in this way, in order to reduce the possibility of spreading infection, we would suggest you use a more sanitary greeting such as the ‘elbow bump’ or waving.
  • If reviewing the work of a learner, try not to lean over them or get too close – rather ask them to verbally explain the piece of work, or if possible email it.