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Information on health and well-being for school staff and learners during the coronavirus pandemic.

First published:
24 March 2020
Last updated:

What should schools be doing to protect the health and well-being of learners and staff?

The spread of COVID-19 and the response measures will impact on health and well-being within school community.  These go beyond the immediate risk of infection. Social distancing and self-isolation will impact on physical and mental and emotional health, while all members of the school community will be faced with the risk or reality of losing loved ones.

Whether working remotely or not:

  • There needs to be added focus on pastoral care and activities to support mental well-being. Guidance should emphasise giving support and care for learners and staff. This should draw on and point to the wide range of support services available.
  • Schools/settings should uphold, promote and (where open) adhere to social distancing guidance.
  • Schools/settings should give greater priority to ensuring learners are active providing more non-contact activities which promote physical activity e.g. games, dance, use of online exercise videos.
  • School/settings should also recognise the importance of developing strong relationships in supporting everyone’s mental and emotional health.

Schools and settings should also recognise the importance of developing strong relationships in supporting everyone’s mental and emotional health. Further guidance on health and well-being for schools or hub settings is available.

Additional guidance for schools and for parents has been developed as part of plans to help children and young people stay learning.

How will pupils eligible for free school meals continue to have access to them with schools closed?

We appreciate how important free school meals are for the children and young people who receive them.

We have worked closely with schools and local authorities across Wales to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals.

We have confidence in the way local authorities have responded swiftly to this emergency and we know local approaches are working well.

We will continue to support local authorities, both financially and through revised guidance, to deliver local solutions while schools remain closed and will provide £33m to enable local authorities to continue free school meal provision until schools re-open or up to the end of August 2020.

The Welsh Government has issued revised guidance  to schools and local authorities on what they should do to help ensure that pupils who receive free school meals continue to be provided with access to food while schools are closed.

If you have concerns about how your child can continue to benefit from free school meal provision while schools are closed, please contact your local authority.  Your local authority will be able to provide you with details on what they are doing locally to support families in receipt of free school meals. 

How should schools and childcare settings manage staff in vulnerable health groups?

We are strongly advising people, including education staff, with serious underlying health conditions which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19), to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe. Staff in this position must not attend work. More advice on this can be found in the guidance on shielding.

Staff with other conditions that mean they are at increased risk of serious illness as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) should work from home where possible, and education and childcare settings should endeavour to support this. More advice on this is included in the social distancing guidance.

Further guidance for settings on managing staff in vulnerable groups is available.

Education and childcare staff who are symptomatic can be referred for testing by their employer using local referral arrangements. The current testing policy also extends to one symptomatic individual who lives in the same household as an asymptomatic Critical Worker can be tested. Symptomatic means a high temperature of 38C or above, a persistent cough or loss of smell or taste.

Further information relating to testing of critical workers is available here. Additional information on testing is available.

 

Will personal protective equipment (PPE) be made available to frontline education and childcare staff who are caring for children of critical workers?

It is essential that those who need personal protective equipment (PPE) have access to it. It is also important to avoid its waste and improper use given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 health emergency. A rapid review of the PPE guidance in the UK was carried out by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Public Health England. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Wales was involved in this review. New guidance, which applies across the UK, was subsequently published.

The guidance does not recommend PPE for other sectors, including teachers and school staff, who are classed as low or no-risk.

Children or staff who are feeling ill or displaying any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should not visit or attend their school or childcare setting. Staff who are symptomatic should contact their employer to arrange testing following the critical workers testing policy. The number of social interactions in the education or childcare environment will be reduced, due to there being fewer children attending. Operating a strict social distancing protocol,  encouraging frequent and thorough hand washing by staff and children using soap and water, and encouraging more frequent cleaning and disinfection of hand contact surfaces will further reduce the infection risk.

Welsh Government has worked with Directors of Education and Education Trade Unions to develop guidance to support ongoing provision in schools and hubs, which includes clear advice on social distancing.

How should schools or childcare settings deal with children with suspected symptoms of coronavirus if their parents refuse to take them home?

Should children, or staff, come in with symptoms and refuse to leave, please contact the local environmental health officer.

Can I take my own children with me if I am working in a school?

The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of Covid-19 is clear. It is imperative that, as far as possible, we minimise social contact. This means that if children can stay safely in their home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading; this includes the children of school staff. Where there is no safe alternative, however, these children may attend the provision at their parent’s school.

What should head teachers do if they are concerned about the availability and supply of hygiene products to their schools?

We are making £30 million available to local authorities to meet the pressures arising from dealing with COVID-19; where necessary, this can be used to support the purchase of hygiene products.

We understand that that some local authorities still run a procurement service, which schools may be obliged to use in the first instance. However, head teachers should still be able to use named contingency suppliers where necessary.

Headteachers should liaise with their local authority health and safety or infection control leads for schools if they have any concerns over the supply of hygiene products for cleaning and disinfection.

More generally, it is important to note the public health advice that thorough handwashing using soap and water is more effective than the use of hand sanitisers. Hand sanitisers should be used as an addition to hand washing, not a substitute.

How can parents and carers support their children with Welsh while at home?

The Minister for Education has announced a new framework, called Stay Safe, Stay Learning which will have dedicated support for Welsh-medium education learners whose families don’t speak Welsh. This will include advice for parents and carers on how they can support their children to use the Welsh language while at home. We will be sharing links to ideas for informal activities on Hwb and update the information, so please revisit the page regularly.

Is there any support available for the education workforce?

Support is available for the education workforce through the Education Support Partnership, the charity dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of education staff.

The Education Support Partnership has been developing digital resources to provide further support to education staff during these very challenging times.  These have been based on key themes of anxiety, grief and isolation. 

Confidential emotional support is also available via the ESP for all education staff 24/7. Call their counselling helpline on 08000 562561 or visit educationsupport.org.uk/helpline

The ESP can also provide financial assistance through its grants service.

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