This version of the guidance includes new information on:
- catering provision for children attending school
- free breakfasts in primary schools
- educational visits
Opportunities to learn and develop are vital for children and young people’s education and well-being, and time spent in school learning face to face with their peers is central to supporting our children to reach their potential. Time spent out of education settings can be detrimental for children and young people’s cognitive and academic development, particularly for vulnerable children and our most disadvantaged.
Outside of school it will be important that all staff, children and their families continue to follow Welsh Government coronavirus guidance.
TAC and PHW advise that the existing control measures remain essential in responding to the new variant and helping to reduce transmission of the virus. However, a more consistent and robust application is likely to be required given the increased transmission risk associated with the new variant. Schools and settings will have become familiar with these control measures. Reviewing the risk assessment and reinforcing the importance of these control measures with all staff, learners and parents, and visitors on the school estate will remain key. Schools and settings may also wish to display the action card at Appendix 3 as a visual aid for staff and learners.
Alongside this guidance, we have also published updated learning guidance and set out expectations and priorities for learning. These provide a common set of priorities for learning throughout the response to COVID-19 and as we move to recovery.
Independent schools must continue to comply with the Independent School Standards (Wales) Regulations 2003.
Public health advice to minimise COVID-19 risks
The system of controls, established by Public Health Wales set out in this section continue to provide a set of principles for infection control; if schools/settings follow this advice and maximise the use of these control measures, they will effectively minimise risks of viral transmission. All elements of the system of controls are essential. All schools/settings must address each of these elements, but the way schools/settings implement some of the requirements will differ based on their individual circumstances.
Local authorities, schools and settings must comply with health and safety law, which requires them to assess risks and put in place proportionate control measures. Schools/settings, with their local authority, should thoroughly review their health and safety risk assessments to ensure they continue to address the risks identified in the system of controls, with which schools and settings will now be familiar.
Essential measures include:
- a requirement that people stay at home and self-isolate if they:
- have symptoms of COVID-19, whether they feel unwell or not
- have tested positive, even if asymptomatic
- have been advised by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect (TTP) to do so
- are household members of a positive case, even if that case is asymptomatic
- are required to self-isolate for travel-related reasons
- instilling robust hand and respiratory hygiene in learners and staff members
- ensuring appropriate ventilation measures on school premises and continuing increased thorough cleaning arrangements
- active engagement with TTP strategy
- formal consideration of how to reduce contacts and maximise social and physical distancing between those in school, wherever possible, and putting in place appropriate mitigating measures to minimise the potential for contamination so far as is reasonably practicable.
Reducing contact between learners, learners and staff, and between staff is still important. The additional assets provide further information on level 1 and level 2 contact groups that may be helpful; however, schools/settings should ensure the following:
- Grouping learners together in as small a group as possible. For example, for those learners in primary schools this is likely to be the size of the class. In secondary schools the size of groups will be influenced by a number of factors including total number of learners and timetabling arrangements.
- Avoiding mixing between separate contact groups, including during arrival at school, break/lunch times and leaving school.
- Staff maintaining social distance from other staff.
- Staff maintaining social distancing from learners as much as possible, recognising this may not be possible with younger learners. This may not also be possible for some learners in special schools and some learners with SEN; in those cases you should refer to the guidance on supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged learners.
- Making the most of the space available, including outdoor space.
Annex A includes a checklist tool that has been developed to support schools and settings when responding during these circumstances.
Local authorities, employers and schools must protect people from harm. This includes taking all reasonable steps to protect staff, learners and others from COVID-19 within the setting.
It is a legal requirement that schools/settings should revisit and update their risk assessments by building on the learning to date and the practices they have already developed. This will enable them to consider the additional risks and control measures to put in place. Schools and settings, working with their local authority health and safety adviser and trade unions, should also review and update their wider risk assessments and consider the need for relevant revised controls considering the implications of COVID-19. A local authority working with their schools and settings should ensure that schools and settings implement sensible and proportionate control measures that follow the health and safety hierarchy of controls in Annex A to reduce the risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level without negatively impacting on the well-being of learners and staff.
Local authorities working with their schools and settings and health and safety advice, should have active arrangements in place to monitor that the controls are:
- as effective as possible
- working as planned
- updated appropriately, considering any issues identified and changes in public health advice
In addition to the advice and support available from local authorities and Public Health Wales, the Health and Safety Executive provides workplace advice and support to help ensure schools and settings are as safe as possible.
Local authorities, working with their schools and settings, should continue to ensure schools and settings are complying with their security plans and that any changes as a result of COVID-19 compliance do not impact negatively on their security plans. Further guidance is available in the Welsh Government and WECTU booklet entitled Protecting schools: An integrated security approach: Toolbox for headteachers (2017).
The system of controls: protective measures
Having assessed their risk, schools/setting must work through the below system of controls, adopting measures to the fullest extent possible in a way that addresses the risk identified in their assessment, works for their school/setting and allows them to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum for the learners attending during this period where possible.
Schools and settings that review and update their risk assessments, following the guidance set out here will effectively reduce risks in their school/ setting and create an inherently safer environment.
System of controls
This is the set of actions schools/settings must take. They are grouped into ‘prevention’ and ‘response to any infection’ and are outlined in more detail in the following sections.
- Ensure staff, learners and parents/carers fully understand that any staff member or learner who has any of the 3 cardinal symptoms of COVID-19 (new persistent cough, fever and/or loss of taste or smell) must not attend the school setting but must remain home and self-isolate, arrange a COVID-19 test and notify the school of this. Supporting the Health Protection Regulations, employers should allow or enable a person to self-isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19, live in a household where another household member has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive, or have been notified by the TTP service or the NHS COVID-19 App that they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
- Testing is also being made available in some areas for those experiencing a wider range of symptoms such as fatigue, myalgia (muscle ache or pain), a sore throat, a headache, a runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. Individuals who take a test because of these other wider symptoms are not required to isolate while they await their test result. This includes learners, who can continue to attend their school or setting while they await a test result. However, children and adults with diarrhoea and/or vomiting should not attend their school/setting until they are symptom-free for 48 hours, even if their test result is negative.
- Where a staff member or learner becomes unwell at the school or setting with possible symptoms of COVID-19 they should be sent home immediately to self-isolate and arrange a COVID-19 test. Until they leave the school or setting (in the case of a learner, when they are collected by a parent/carer) their contact with all other individuals at the setting should be minimised. If possible, ensure they remain in a separate room until they are able to leave the setting.
- Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser if soap and water are unavailable.
- Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it, wash your hands’ approach.
- Ensure enhanced cleaning takes place, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, using standard products such as detergents and disinfectants.
- Where necessary, in specific circumstances (set out later in the guidance), wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Where possible ensure appropriate ventilation.
- Minimise contact between all individuals. For all learners the emphasis will be on forming contact groups and ensuring there is no mixing of those groups. In addition for older learners it will also be on maintaining social/physical distancing where possible. For example, where the number of learners in a particular classis relatively small in relation to the size of the classroom, allowing for the class to be set up to enable social distancing.
- Staff responsible for younger learners should remain with set contact groups. Only under exceptional circumstances should they interchange between different groups. In determining whether specific circumstances are exceptional, schools/settings will need to consider a range of factors. This includes any alternative arrangement that could be put in place and their associated impacts, alongside the risk and harms of allowing an individual to interchange between different groups, as well as any additional mitigations that may need to be put in place as a consequence of such arrangements in addition to keeping a record of any mixing between contact groups. This could for example include where staff members work with different morning and afternoon nursery classes.
- All staff should adhere to the social/physical distancing measures as far as possible; however, we recognise that when working with younger learners this may not always be possible.
- If social distance cannot be maintained, high quality 3 layer face coverings should be worn by staff members in all settings. This includes in the classroom as well as elsewhere in the school building, however, having regard to the needs of the learner will be important and a specific risk assessment may be required.
- Face coverings should also be worn by learners in secondary schools where social distancing arrangements set out elsewhere in this guidance cannot be maintained. This includes in the classroom as well as elsewhere in the school building.
- Voluntary routine testing is available to all staff working in schools and settings, and learners from Year 7 upwards, as a method of quickly detecting asymptomatic cases. Those eligible are strongly encouraged to take up the offer of testing to further reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission.
Response to any infection
- Engage with the TTP strategy.
- Manage confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the school community and contain any outbreak by following local health protection team advice.
The guidance for independent boarding and residential schools sets out the action to be taken if anyone within the boarding school has any symptoms. They should self-isolate for the appropriate period of time and apply for a test as soon as possible. Whether they remain at school or not, schools will need to identify other individuals in the ‘boarding household’ and possible known contacts who will need to self-isolate for the period of time set out in the self-isolation guidance. This may include, for example, fellow boarders and residential learners who share a dormitory, bathroom or kitchen, and members of staff. Many children will benefit from self-isolating in their boarding house so that their usual support can continue. Others will benefit more from self-isolating in their home.
1. Minimise contact with individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 (whether they are unwell or not) or who have someone in their household who does, and ensure they do not attend school
Local authorities, working with their schools and settings, should ensure they are communicating clearly that:
- learners, staff and other adults must not come into a school or setting if they:
- have COVID-19 symptoms
- have tested positive for COVID-19
- live with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms
- live with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
- have been identified as a contact of a positive case in the last 10 days
- anyone developing COVID-19 symptoms during the school day must be sent home immediately
Both of these actions are essential to reduce the risk in schools and further drive down transmission of COVID-19.
All schools/settings must follow this process and ensure all staff are aware of it.
If anyone in the school/setting becomes unwell with a new and persistent cough or a high temperature, or has a loss of or change in their normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia), the school should continue to follow the arrangements they have in place and the individual must be sent home immediately and advised to follow guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection, i.e. the individual should begin to self-isolate and should arrange to have a COVID-19 test.
Other members of the individual’s household (including any siblings) should also begin to self-isolate and await the result of the test to see if their household member has tested positive.
If a child with COVID-19 symptoms is awaiting collection, they should be moved, if possible, to a room where they can be isolated behind a closed door, depending on their age and needs, with appropriate adult supervision if required. Ideally, a window should be opened for ventilation. If it is not possible to isolate them, move them to an area which is at least two metres away from other people.
If they need to go to the bathroom while waiting to be collected, they should use a separate bathroom if possible. The bathroom must be cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products before being used by anyone else.
As is usual practice, in an emergency, call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured or if their life is at risk. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should not otherwise visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.
Any member of staff who has provided close contact care to someone with symptoms, even while wearing a face covering, and all other members of staff or learners who have been in close contact with that person with symptoms, even if wearing a face covering, do not need to go home to self-isolate unless:
- the symptomatic person subsequently tests positive
- they develop symptoms themselves (in which case, they should commence self-isolation immediately and arrange to have a test)
- they are requested to do so by TTP
Everyone must wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water or use hand sanitiser after any contact with someone who is unwell with COVID-19 symptoms. The area around the person with symptoms must be cleaned after they have left to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people. See the Gov.UK COVID-19 cleaning of non-healthcare settings outside the home guidance.
The present advice continues to be that it is not necessary to screen temperatures. Learners’ parents/carers can check for signs of a high temperature. In any case, screening will not identify all cases of COVID-19 and the means of checking temperature may put staff at greater risk of transmission, as well as cause worry or concern for learners.
2. Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual
COVID-19 is an easy virus to remove when it is on skin. This remains true for the new variant. This can be done with soap and running water or hand sanitiser. Schools must ensure that learners clean their hands regularly, including when they arrive at school, when they return from breaks, when they change rooms and before and after eating. Regular and thorough hand cleaning is going to be needed for the foreseeable future.
Points to consider and implement include the following:
- Whether the school has enough hand washing or hand sanitiser ‘stations’ available so that all learners and staff can clean their hands regularly.
- Supervision of hand sanitiser use, given risks around ingestion. Small children and learners with complex needs should continue to be helped to clean their hands properly. Skin-friendly cleaning wipes can be used as an alternative.
- Building these routines into school culture, supported by behaviour expectations, and helping ensure younger children, and those with complex needs, understand the need to follow them.
- Automated soap dispensers being used where possible and hands being thoroughly dried, preferably using paper towels. Hand dryers should be avoided where possible. Paper towels should be disposed of in a lidded bin and not allowed to overflow. Bins should be emptied often and daily.
3. Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it, wash your hands’ approach
The ‘catch it, bin it, kill it, wash your hands’ approach continues to be very important, so schools must ensure that they have enough tissues and bins available in the school to support learners and staff to follow this routine. As with hand cleaning, schools must ensure younger children and those with complex needs are helped to get this right and all learners understand that this is now part of how the school operates. The e-Bug COVID-19 website contains free resources for schools, including materials to encourage good hand and respiratory hygiene.
Some learners with complex needs will struggle to maintain as good a respiratory hygiene as their peers, e.g. those who spit uncontrollably or use saliva as a sensory stimulant. This should be considered in risk assessments in order to support these learners and the staff working with them, and is not a reason to deny these learners face-to-face education.
4. Enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often using standard products, such as detergents
Schools and settings should follow the latest advice on cleaning in non-healthcare settings.
Points to consider and implement include:
- Putting in place a cleaning schedule that ensures cleaning is generally enhanced and involves:
- more frequent cleaning of rooms/shared areas after they have been used by a different group
- frequently touched surfaces being cleaned more often than normal.
- Where possible, providing separate toilets for different contact groups. Where this is not possible, ensure hand sanitiser is used before entering the toilet and that toilets are cleaned regularly. Learners must be encouraged to clean their hands thoroughly before and after using the toilet.
5. Minimise contact between individuals and maintain social distancing
Minimising contacts and mixing between people reduces transmission of COVID-19. This continues to be important in all contexts and schools and settings must continue to consider how to implement this and do everything possible to minimise contacts and mixing.
The overarching principle to apply in any school/setting is reducing the number of contacts between children and staff, as well as between staff, and keeping contact groups separate. Schools and settings should maintain and not mix contact groups.
We recognise that younger children will not be able to maintain social distancing and it is acceptable for them not to distance within their group, the important measure here is to maintain and not mix the contact group in parallel with the other mitigating measures set out in this guidance. The introduction of contact groups are in recognition that social distancing is not always possible; it is an important mitigation in helping minimise contacts and mixing between people.
For older children, they should also be supported to maintain distance wherever possible. Schools and settings should consider using any additional space available to maximise the distance between learners and between staff and other people.
How to group children
Consistent groups reduce the risk of transmission by limiting the number of learners and staff in contact with each other to only those within the group. They have been used to date in recognition that children, especially the youngest children, cannot socially distance from staff or from each other, maintaining and not mixing contact groups provides an additional protective measure. Maintaining distinct contact groups that do not mix also makes it quicker and easier in the event of a positive case to identify those who may need to self-isolate and keep that number as small as possible.
Each group should be kept apart from other groups and older children should be encouraged to keep their distance within contact groups. Schools should take steps to limit interaction and the sharing of rooms and social spaces between contact groups as much as possible.
With larger groups, the other measures from the system of controls become even more important in order to minimise both the risk of transmission as well as the numbers of pupils and staff who may need to self-isolate.
Both the approaches of separating groups and maintaining distance are not ‘all-or nothing’ options and will still bring benefits even if implemented partially. Siblings may also be in different groups. Endeavouring to keep these groups at least partially separate and minimising contacts between children will still offer public health benefits as it reduces the network of possible direct transmission.
Staff responsible for younger learners should remain with set contact groups. Only under exceptional circumstances should staff interchange between different groups. All staff should adhere to the social/physical distancing measures as far as possible; however, we recognise that when working with younger learners this may not always be possible. In these circumstances high quality 3 layer face coverings should be worn by staff members, however, having regard to the needs of the learning will be important and a specific risk assessment may be required.
Measures within the classroom
Maintaining a distance between people while inside and reducing the amount of time they are in face-to-face contact lowers the risk of transmission. There is strong public health advice that staff in secondary schools should maintain distance from their learners, staying at the front of the class, and away from their colleagues where possible. Ideally, adults should maintain a two-metre distance from each other and from children, any additional space available where there are lower numbers of learners attending should be used, wherever possible, to maximise the distance between learners and between staff and others. We know that this is not always possible, particularly when working with younger children, but if adults can do this when circumstances allow that will help. In particular, they should avoid close face-to-face contact and minimise time spent within one metre of anyone. Similarly, it will not be possible when working with many learners who have complex needs or who need close contact care. These learners’ educational and care support should be provided as normal. Staff whose role is to provide intimate personal care for some of our most vulnerable children with complex medical needs have been included as part of the priority list for vaccination, and were offered their first dose by mid February, helping to protect them and our most vulnerable learners. It will also be important to undertake a risk assessment to ensure any additional mitigating measures are necessary, such as the use of well-ventilated space, and high quality 3 layer face coverings.
We recognise that learners in secondary schools, particularly older learners, will be moving between contact groups. Arrangements should be put in place to enable learners to maintain social distance from each other as well as staff members wherever possible, alongside other control measures. Schools may wish to consider making use of available alternative and additional spaces in the school when planning contact groups. Schools should consider the impact of such arrangements on learners as well as staff.
When staff or children cannot maintain distancing, particularly with younger children in primary schools, the risk can also be reduced by keeping learners in smaller groups, such as their class size, ensuring these contact groups do not mix and by staff wearing face coverings.
Schools should make small adaptations to the classroom to support distancing where possible. That should include seating learners side by side and facing forwards, rather than face-to-face or side on, and might include moving unnecessary furniture out of classrooms to make more space. Foundation Phase learners will be more active in their play based learning and seating and desk arrangements will not be required. In line with the Foundation Phase pedagogical approach outside learning should be should be used to promote independent, child-centred learning activities and should be considered wherever possible.
Contact groups should be kept apart, meaning that schools should avoid gatherings such as assemblies, lunch/break times or collective worship with more than one group.
Movement around the school site should be kept to a minimum. While passing briefly in the corridor or playground is low risk, schools should avoid creating busy corridors, entrances and exits. Schools should also consider staggered break times and lunch times (and time for cleaning surfaces in the dining hall between groups).
Schools should also plan how shared staff spaces are set up and used to ensure staff distance from each other. Use of staff rooms should be minimised, although staff must still have a break of a reasonable length during the day. Schools should also consider how other shared spaces such as libraries and sixth form common rooms are organised and used by staff and learners to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
We recognise some arrangements for our early years learners can present unique challenges for local authorities and providers. Additional thought and planning is required, especially where these arrangements support parents and need to blend seamlessly with childcare provision.
The evidence shows our youngest learners are in the least at risk group. We also know our early years’ educational practitioners are experienced in caring for the needs of young children and will apply professional judgement doing the right thing for children, parents and staff. Continuing with a child centred approach means we will have a high-quality delivery of the Foundation Phase with personal and social development and well-being at the centre of our Foundation Phase philosophy for our youngest learners with a focus on play based learning.
Younger learners are at a critical stage of cognitive development and it is essential their start in education is a positive one and provides a strong foundation for their future development. There is a need to ensure schools and funded non-maintained settings are provided with the right framework so that our youngest children get the very best start to their educational life, and one that they can build on for the future.
Non-maintained settings are advised to follow operational guidance for childcare settings.
Schools and non-maintained childcare settings should follow their normal transition processes, where possible, to ensure a positive, and safe, experience for our youngest learners within the overall aim of all children accessing education as soon as is practical.
We know for some families, such as our critical workers, the use of out of school or wrap around childcare will be key to supporting children to return to school and parents to work. Wherever possible this should be kept to a minimum, but in some cases it will be unavoidable, and that is particularly so for early education depending on the delivery model in your area.
If the child is accessing both education and childcare, and this is taking place across two settings or sites, it will be important to ensure schools and childcare settings all understand the transition arrangements and are clear on when the child will be in each setting and what collection and transport arrangements are in place.
Attendance at more than one setting will require close partnership working between schools, childcare settings and parents. Ideally children should remain in the same contact group across settings, and if there is a suspected case of COVID-19 in either setting that impacts that child and their contact group, both settings must be informed and work together to identify contacts.
Schools and funded non-maintained settings will have the added responsibility of transition for new learners. In addition, existing learners will have a prolonged period of transition and may require additional support due to the length of time they have been away, and some learners will also transition from settings to schools.
Within nursery provision there is often a greater level of parental involvement than at any time in a child’s educational journey. In addition to drop-off and collection of children, parents sometimes help their children to settle in and staff may well undertake home visits before children start. Schools and settings will need to balance this engagement with the need to minimise overall levels of contacts. Consideration should be given to how this is done when undertaking risk assessments. If a home visit is required it should be undertaken outside, for example in the garden of the premises where the child resides, to ensure 2 metre physical/social distancing can be maintained from the school staff member and the child and their family.
In addition to the guidance in this document about stringent cleaning, having different sets of equipment and resources for different groups of children in nursery, if possible, will also help minimise transmission, particularly where more than one group of learners needs to access the same space during a single day; for example, in schools with morning and afternoon nursery provision. This would reduce the amount of cleaning needed to be undertaken during the change-over period with the focus then being on fixed furniture, larger equipment and high touch points.
The time learners spend outdoors should be maximised. This has important physical, mental and educational benefits and helps combat transmission of COVID-19.
When inside practitioners should utilise all available space including areas usually set aside for older learners. We recognise some of this space will already be in use for children of critical workers and vulnerable learners.
In addition to the guidance earlier in this document about minimising contact, the level of social (physical) distancing within indoor childcare settings with young children will be harder to maintain than in other settings. Settings should therefore implement the social distancing and mixing in childcare settings measures set out in the revised Protective measures in childcare settings: Keep Childcare Safe guidance
(link) to minimise the number of contacts that children and adults have when inside, while ensuring children are kept safe and well cared for.
Further information about self-isolation and booking tests for those showing symptoms and the process for contact tracing are outlined earlier in this guidance: protective measures.
Organised activities for children
Organised outdoor activities for children restarted from 27 March 2021, and organised indoor activities for children restarted from 3 May 2021. Attendance at such activities, when they take place outside of the school day and away from the school estate, is not a matter schools or settings would be expected to police. However, it is likely that attendance at such activities would increase the number of contacts children have. Schools and settings will need to be mindful of this in their communications with parents. As with circumstances where children attend both schools and childcare, if there is a suspected case of COVID-19 at any such organised activity that impacts that child and their contact group, settings must be informed and work together to identify contacts. Further information and guidance regarding organised children's outdoor and indoor activities is available..
Use of face coverings for health purposes
A rapid review by Public Health England in January 2021 concluded that consistent evidence from observational studies indicates that community-wide use of face coverings may reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, face coverings are not a replacement for far more effective measures such as social distancing and hand hygiene.
Where a decision is made to use a face covering we would encourage that individuals use recyclable high quality three layered multi-use face coverings and use them correctly, covering the mouth and nose, ensuring hand hygiene before putting on and following removal. Schools and settings should also ensure adequate waste bins on premises for those who choose to use single-use face coverings.
Face coverings should be high quality three layered as set out by the World Health Organisation, but do not need to be medical-grade face masks. Face coverings or visors are not PPE and would not prevent an individual being identified as a close contact by TTP.
If social distancing cannot be maintained, face coverings should be worn anywhere on the school estate, including in the classroom by staff at primary and secondary schools and secondary school learners. The exception is at mealtimes and when they are outside, unless the school risk assessment indicates that additional measures are needed, e.g. on a school yard where there are a large number of learners in a relatively small space without separation of contact groups (such as when waiting to enter school). Frequent putting on and taking off of face coverings is not recommended as this can risk contaminating hands and face; if learners are outside for a short period it may be easier to keep face coverings on. Learners should not wear face coverings when running round, playing football or other active games.
Face coverings should continue to be worn by learners in secondary schools and settings when travelling on dedicated school transport. This aligns with the requirement for all passengers aged 11 years and over to wear face coverings on public transport. This does not apply to younger children in primary schools and in early years settings.
If however during this time anyone wishes to wear a face covering for personal reasons anywhere in the school/setting they should be permitted to do so. This may help support their wider well-being, reduce anxiety and provide additional reassurance for some individuals alongside other mitigating measures.
Visitors to the school setting should use a face covering, including parents/carers when dropping off and picking up learners.
Schools will need to communicate quickly and clearly to staff, parents/carers and learners that the new arrangements require the use of face coverings in certain circumstances. In addition, schools should ensure there is appropriate on-site signage to make visitors and parents/carers aware of the requirement for them to wear face coverings when entering school premises, and to not remain on the premises/at the gates longer than necessary especially when dropping off/collecting children.
There are some risks and harms of face coverings to be considered, including:
- the potential for inadvertent virus spread when putting on or taking off face coverings
- the need for supply, safe wearing, storage and disposal of face coverings
- the risk of stigmatisation or bullying of those with medical exemptions (especially neurodiverse learners)
- problems for those who lip-read
- the adverse effects on learning, emotional engagement and communication of the masking of facial features
The overall interests of the young person must be given priority in these circumstances and no learner should be excluded from accessing education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering. Face coverings may need to be provided to certain groups of learners who may be unable to obtain them through other means, if they are recommended locally.
Considering the well-being of learners is critical in any considerations around whether staff or older learners wear face coverings. Anyone who may be unable to handle face coverings as directed should not wear them as it may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission e.g. young learners or those with special educational needs (SEN) or disabilities. How a learner is likely to respond to the use of face coverings by others should also be considered, as should any potential impact on the development of speech, language and communication.
There are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people may be less able to wear face coverings and the reasons for this may not be visible to others. Staff and learners may have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering if (for example):
- they are not able to put on or to wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness, or because of a condition or impairment
- they are accompanying somebody who relies on lip reading where they need to communicate, or they need to communicate with someone who relies on lip reading
- they are escaping from a threat or danger and don’t have a face covering
Anyone may remove their face covering temporarily to assist a person who is reliant on lip reading or seeing facial expressions to communicate. However, social distancing of 2m should be observed at all times in this circumstance.
Face coverings and implications for deaf learners or learners with any level of hearing loss
The impact of wearing a face covering for a deaf learner or learners with any level of hearing loss should be carefully considered, as communication for many deaf people relies in part on being able to see someone’s face clearly. The National Deaf Children’s Society has provided the following communication tips that staff may find useful in this regard. Further guidance and advice on use of clear face coverings is available.
Advice on face coverings will be kept under constant review and will always follow the latest scientific advice.
Schools/settings will want to consider staggered starts or adjusting start and finish times to keep groups apart as they arrive and leave school. Staggered start and finish times should not reduce the amount of overall teaching time. A staggered start may, for example, include condensing/staggering free periods or break time but retaining the same amount of teaching time or keeping the length of the day the same but starting and finishing later to avoid rush hour. Schools should consider how to communicate this to parents/carers and remind them about the process that has been agreed for drop-off and collection, including that gathering at the school gates and otherwise coming onto the site without an appointment is not allowed. Communication materials have been provided to local authorities and their schools and settings to assist in reinforcing these messages with parents/carers.
Some learners with SEN will need specific help and preparation for the changes to routine that this will involve, so teachers and SEN coordinators should plan to meet these needs, e.g. by using social stories.
Supply teachers, peripatetic teachers and/or other temporary staff can move between schools. They should ensure they minimise contact and maintain social distance from other staff and learners wherever possible. Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for learners with SEN should provide interventions as usual and in accordance with the setting’s risk assessment. Schools should:
- consider how to manage other visitors to the site, such as contractors
- ensure that site guidance on social/physical distancing and hygiene is explained to visitors on or before arrival
- ensure that signage is used and prominently displayed on the premises
Where possible, visits should happen outside of school hours. A record should be kept of all visitors as this may be needed at a future point to assist the Welsh Government’s TTP strategy.
Local authorities, as education otherwise than at school (EOTAS) commissioners, will need to be assured that EOTAS providers have complied with health and safety law requiring them to assess risks and put in place proportionate control measures. Where a learner routinely attends more than one setting on a part-time basis, e.g. because they are dual-registered at a mainstream school and either a PRU setting, a EOTAS setting or a special school, the settings should work through the system of controls collaboratively, enabling them to address any risks identified and allowing them to jointly deliver a broad and balanced curriculum for the learner. During this time the settings should consider whether providing learning on one site may be feasible.
Schools and settings should ensure that outdoor playground equipment is more frequently cleaned. This would also apply to resources used inside and outside by wrap-around care providers. It is still recommended that learners limit the amount of equipment they bring into school each day, to essentials such as lunch boxes, bags, hats, coats, books, stationery and mobile phones. Learners and staff can take books and other shared resources home, although unnecessary sharing should be avoided, especially where this does not contribute to learners’ education and development. Similar rules on hand washing, cleaning of the resources and rotation should apply to these resources.
For individual and very frequently used equipment, such as pencils and pens, it is recommended that staff and learners have their own items that are not shared. Classroom-based resources, such as books and games, can be used and shared within the contact group; these should be cleaned regularly, along with all frequently touched surfaces. Resources that are shared between contact groups, such as sports, art and science equipment, should be cleaned frequently and meticulously and always between contact groups, or rotated to allow them to be left unused and out of reach for a period of 48 hours (72 hours for plastics) between use by different contact groups.
Materials such as play-dough and sand that are very difficult to clean can present particular challenges. In line with existing Public Health Wales guidance on infection prevention and control in early years settings during an outbreak of any infectious disease, it may be safest to avoid using these materials during the pandemic while increased preventative measures are in place. Where settings choose to use these difficult to clean items, based on a risk assessment, they should ensure that handwashing takes place before and after play with these materials and that they are not shared between different groups within the bubble unless a minimum of 72 hours has passed. These should be risk assessed and the materials be changed in accordance with manufacturers guidance or sooner if thought to be contaminated. Water play can take place if steps are taken to avoid multiple children sharing water, change water regularly particularly between groups within the bubble and always between bubble groups. Particular care should be taken when children move between activities in a room to ensure that hand washing takes place between each station and that materials that can be cleaned are cleaned between groups. Sand, play-dough, water and other higher risk activities should not take place when there are one or more positive cases in the school or setting.
If non-symptomatic children present behaviours that may increase the risk of droplet transmission (such as biting, licking, kissing or spitting) or require care that cannot be provided without close contact, they should continue to receive care in the same way.
In these circumstances, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, no additional PPE is necessary as these are non-symptomatic children in a non-healthcare setting and so the risk of viral transmission is very low. However, additional space and frequent cleaning of surfaces, objects and toys will be required. Cleaning arrangements should be increased in all schools and settings, with a specific focus on surfaces that are frequently touched.
Where necessary, wear appropriate PPE
PPE is different to a face covering and will meet the required standards to protect the individual. The PPE required will depend on the exact tasks being undertaken and will vary between different work environments.
It is important to remember that social/physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene (catching a cough or sneeze in a tissue or covering the mouth and nose with an elbow or sleeve) remain strongly evidenced as the most effective ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
There is therefore no need to use PPE when undertaking routine educational activities in classroom/school settings.
The list below covers when PPE may be required.
- No PPE is required when undertaking routine educational activities in classroom or school settings.
- Gloves, aprons and a fluid-resistant surgical mask should be worn if a child or young person becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 and needs direct personal care.
- Eye protection should also be worn if a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes such as from coughing, spitting, or vomiting.
- Gloves and aprons should be used when cleaning the areas where a person suspected of having COVID-19 has been.
- Gloves and aprons should continue to be used when providing personal care to a child or young person. This can include personal, hands-on care such as washing, toileting, or first aid and certain clinical procedures such as assisted feeding.
- Fluid-resistant surgical masks should be worn and eye protection (if a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes such as from coughing, spitting, or vomiting).
- Gloves, fluid repellent gowns, FFP3 masks and eye protection are indicated when undertaking aerosol-generating procedures such as suction.
- Gloves and aprons should be used when cleaning equipment or surfaces that might be contaminated with body fluids such as saliva or respiratory secretions. Gov.UK guidance also sets out that gloves and an apron should be used when cleaning areas where a person suspected of having COVID-19 has been.
The use of PPE by staff within settings should be based on a clear assessment of risk, taking into account each individual setting and the needs of the individual learner. Schools, settings and local authorities already have risk assessments processes in place which should be used to identify the need for the use of PPE. Following any risk assessment, where the need for PPE has been identified, it should be readily available and provided by the employer. Further information has been provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
All staff should have a clear understanding of how to put on or remove PPE in the right order, safely dispose of the waste and use correct hand hygiene steps to reduce the risk of onward transmission of infection.
In any case, hand washing should always be practised before putting on and after removing PPE. Schools and settings should contact their local authority to obtain PPE to cover the above, and to discuss any relevant training requirements.
Keeping occupied spaces well ventilated
During this time it is important to ensure schools and settings continue to be well ventilated and a comfortable teaching environment is maintained. Ventilation is a key mitigation measure to control the far-field (>2m) transmission of SARSCoV-2 by aerosols between people who share the same indoor space. Ventilation is not likely to have significant impacts on close range transmission by droplets and aerosols (within 1-2m) or transmission via contact with surfaces (high confidence).
Higher viral load associated with people who have the new variant could have significant implications for transmission via the air, as previous scientific modelling suggests that viral load is a major determinant of airborne transmission risks. SAGE before the introduction of the new variant stated; for most workplaces and public environments adequate ventilation equates to a flow rate of 8-10 l/s/person based on design occupancy, although guidance for some environments allows for lower flow rates of 5 l/s/person. Since the introduction of the new variant, SAGE has recommended where possible, increasing ventilation flow rates mentioned above by a factor of 1.7 (70%) to account for the increase in transmissibility.
For some existing and older buildings, ventilation systems may not have been designed to meet current standards and additional mitigations may be needed. As a precautionary measure it is recommended that ventilation is included as part of any workplace or public indoor environment COVID secure risk assessment, and the necessary mitigation measures are adopted.
In most buildings, maintaining comfortable temperatures and humidity above 40-60% relative humidity is likely to be beneficial to reducing the survivability of the virus. However, this is likely to be less important than the ventilation rate mentioned above.
Advice on this can be found in HSE guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak and in the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) COVID-19 advice.
In addition ventilation can be achieved by a variety of measures including:
- mechanical ventilation systems: these should be adjusted to increase the ventilation rate wherever possible, and checked to confirm that normal operation meets current guidance (if possible, systems should be adjusted to full fresh air or, if not, then systems should be operated as normal as long as they are within a single room and supplemented by an outdoor air supply)
- natural ventilation: opening windows (in cooler weather windows should be opened just enough to provide constant background ventilation, and opened more fully during breaks to purge the air in the space). Windows can also be opened more fully before learners and teaching staff come in and at the end of the school day. Opening internal doors can also assist with increasing the throughput of air (as long as they are not fire doors and where safe to do so)
- natural ventilation: if necessary external opening doors may also be used (as long as they are not fire doors, and where safe to do so)
To increase the fresh air ventilation rate to ensure dilution, solutions schools could use would include seeking to undertake the following.
- Check if ventilation is functioning well: windows, grids, airbricks and not obstructed; check for function and identify areas that are poorly ventilated.
- Take advice from competent heating and ventilation professionals.
- Start ventilation of rooms ahead of school day and allow it to continue throughout the day and after classes have finished.
- Set air handling units to maximise fresh outdoor air over recirculation.
- Ensure open windows and doors provide adequate ventilation while maintaining a comfortable workplace temperature (noise and fire restrictions dependent).
- Instruct teaching staff on how to achieve the most effective ventilation, e.g. opening top windows, moving obstructions such as curtains/blinds.
- Use ceiling fans or desk fans to prevent pockets of stagnant air only where the area is well ventilated.
- Ventilate classrooms and other areas between classes and uses, e.g. by opening all doors (not fire doors) and windows wide.
- Consider a target maximum capacity for smaller rooms to ensure greater dilution.
- Consider the use of CO2 monitors to identify areas where there may be challenges in ensuring adequate ventilation.
Heating should be used as necessary to ensure comfort levels are maintained particularly in occupied spaces and meet the relevant regulations. Further information is provided in the section on estates.
Response to any infection
Engage with the TTP strategy
The TTP strategy published on 13 May 2020 was implemented across Wales from 1 June 2020.
This strategy sets out the next phase of our approach to tackling coronavirus: testing people with symptoms in the community, tracing those who have come into close contact with people who have tested positive for coronavirus, and protecting family, friends and our community by self-isolating. Since September 2020 the TTP strategy has been supported by the NHS COVID-19 app.
TTP works by:
- testing those people who have coronavirus symptoms, and asking them to isolate from family, friends and their community while taking a test and waiting for a result. People can apply for a test for themselves or someone in their household with symptoms. This includes adults and children, including the under-fives. TTP guidance for staff and how to apply for a test can be found on the Welsh Government website
- note, if the symptoms are not due to coronavirus, individuals and their contacts can cease their period of self-isolation and get back to their normal routines immediately once the negative test result is known
- tracing those people who have been in close contact with people that have tested positive for the virus and requiring them to self-isolate. Further information on contact tracing and how it operates can be found on the Welsh Government website
- providing advice and guidance to those that have tested positive, particularly if the person who has symptoms or their contacts are in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable group’ or are in the increased risk group
Through reducing transmission in our communities, and quickly identifying and isolating those at risk of developing COVID-19 following their close contact with a positive individual (e.g. a known contact or family member) we will support the wider opening of schools, colleges and early years’ settings.
Asymptomatic testing offer for schools and settings
In order to quickly detect asymptomatic adults, ask them to self-isolate as soon as possible, reduce the likelihood of clusters and outbreaks in settings and the disruption that brings to education, rapid-result coronavirus (COVID-19) tests are available to all staff working in schools/settings including school transport operators peripatetic teachers and supply staff. Test kits are also available for learners from Years 7 upwards, all FE college learners and learners on work-based Apprenticeship and Traineeship programmes. These tests are for use at home.
Testing is voluntary, but those who are eligible for tests are strongly encouraged to participate to further reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission within the workplace.
Further information on the testing offer, including the latest guides and other resources, is available via the online document platform.
Anyone who tests positive using a Lateral Flow Test (LFT) must not attend a school / setting. They and everyone they live with must self-isolate immediately according to the self-isolation guidance whilst they undertake the following actions:
- Report the test result online.
- Book a follow up PCR test through the online booking portal.
- Notify their setting of the result.
- For staff - notify other organisations as per the guidance for the sector (Local authority or Care Inspectorate Wales).
They will be contacted by the local contact tracing team to identify contacts who will need to self-isolate – they must follow any advice given by the local contact tracing team. If a positive LFT test result is followed by a PCR test taken within 24 hours and the result is negative, the staff member or learner may return to school as normal. If the PCR test is taken after 24 hours of a positive LFT and the PCR is negative, the staff member or learner will need to continue to self-isolate for 10 days. A flow chart providing details of the regular testing process can be found on the Testing Offer Asset Bank.
A negative or void LFT test result must also be recorded via the online results portal but no further action is required, and the individual can continue their day as usual.
A negative test result does not remove the risk of transmission
Schools and settings should reinforce these messages and in particular, remind all those who test negative that this does not mean they can relax their infection prevention measures and/or if they show any of the COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate immediately and book a test. Those living with someone showing symptoms or who has tested positive for COVID-19 must also self-isolate. Where possible it would be helpful for schools and settings to keep a record of anyone who comes in to a contact group (e.g. intervention teams). This can be a simple book in every classroom recording anyone coming in from ‘outside’.
Manage confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the school community
It will be important for schools and settings to ensure they continue to have processes in place to record contact groups in order to support the contact tracing process, in the event of a positive case.
In the event of a positive test, a contact tracer will contact the person tested to help identify potential contacts. A second contact tracer will then get in touch with those contacts and notify them to self-isolate from their last contact with the person who tested positive. These people will only be required to take a test if they develop symptoms. If a cluster should occur in the school/setting, the cluster’s members will be provided with a dedicated TTP contact person managing the cluster, to whom they can report new cases or raise any other concerns such as increasing numbers of possible cases. Further guidance on contact tracing is available.
A positive test on site therefore does not require closure of that site. The process of testing and contact tracing is part of the ‘new normal’ and where schools and settings follow these guidelines carefully, there is no cause for alarm. The latest information can be found on the Welsh Government website.
Where vulnerable learners are self-isolating it is important that schools put systems in place to keep in contact with them, offer pastoral support, and check they are able to access education support.
If there is more than one positive case of COVID-19 associated with your school/setting you must contact your local Environmental Health Officer in order to report this. Your Coronavirus risk assessment should also make provision for multiple cases and nominate a single point of contact for liaison. In some circumstances an Incident Management Team (IMTs) which includes representation from Health Protection/Public Health Wales, local authorities, health boards and Test, Trace, Protect teams may be established in order to consider and advise on next steps. If necessary, you will be asked to record details of symptomatic staff and learners and assist with identifying contacts. Keeping records up to date is therefore an important pre-requisite.
A template letter has been developed for schools, on the advice of the health protection team, to send to parents/carers and staff if needed.
Schools and settings should not request evidence of negative test results or other medical evidence before accepting learners or welcoming them back after a period of self-isolation.
Identifying clusters and incidents of COVID-19
Building upon the Disease Outbreak Plan for Wales (2020) Public Health Wales (PHW) has provided specific advice regarding the investigation and management of clusters and incidents of COVID-19. Full details can be found in that document.
The NHS COVID-19 app
Staff and learners aged 16 and over are eligible to use the NHS COVID-19 app. Schools should tell learners who use the app to tell a member of staff if they get an alert that they have had close contact with a person with symptoms.
If notified by the app, the learner should inform a trusted adult, usually a school staff member. The school should then follow its COVID-19 procedures as if that learner had been present in class with another learner who had shown symptoms.
Schools do not need to update policies on use of mobile phones.
In Wales, we are working to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority schedule. The JCVI is the expert body which advises all four UK governments, and the priority schedule of vaccination we are working to is the same as the schedule for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The JCVI has set out that the first priorities for the vaccination programme should be the prevention of deaths relating COVID-19, and the protection of health and social care staff and systems. Welsh Government has also agreed that staff whose role is to provide intimate personal care for some of our most vulnerable children with complex medical needs will be included as part of the priority list for vaccination.
The first four groups include the clinically extremely vulnerable and over 70s; COVID-19 vaccination strategy. It was announced on 27 February that more than 1 million vaccinations have been administered by NHS Wales. Those in all four priority groups for vaccination were offered a first dose by mid February.
Attendance during this time
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have issued guidance indicating that very few children are clinically extremely vulnerable and as a result many of the children previously advised to shield are no longer required to do so. Parents are being informed where children are removed from the Shielding Patient List but many will receive no formal notification. Where a parent/carer wishes their child to attend school, arrangements should be put in place to support attendance and the relevant information incorporated into risk assessments.
Schools and settings should keep a record of attendance and families should notify their school if their child is unable to attend and explain the reason for this to enable the school to record attendance correctly.
In many cases the anxieties will relate to health vulnerabilities, such as when where a child or family member is clinically extremely vulnerable within the household or wider family. In these circumstances schools and local authorities should work with the family to support a learner to access the curriculum and minimise disruption to the learner’s education. If a learner is unable to attend the physical setting of the school due to self-isolation it is vital the school continues to engage regularly with the learner remotely. The Welsh Government Learning guidance may be helpful to support this.
Approved absence will not be penalised and schools may wish to use, a bespoke plan to support transition to face to face learning at the earliest opportunity.
We recognise some families will have greater anxiety about children’s attendance at school during this time of uncertainty around the risks of COVID-19. Engagement should be ongoing with the family so that schools, settings and local authorities, understand any barriers to learners returning to school and identify any further support that may be needed to enable a full return to the educational setting at the earliest opportunity.
Any concerns about engagement, or the welfare of a learner, should be followed up immediately by the school. Concerns should only be escalated to the Education Welfare Service after the school has made every attempt to engage the family. During these times a multi-agency approach is critical and if the school has any concerns about the harm, neglect or abuse of learners this should be reported to the Designated Safeguarding Person who will liaise with children’s services and other agencies as appropriate.
Following consultation, the Welsh Government has revoked the School Performance and Absence Targets (Wales) Regulations 2011 (in force from 7 August 2020). As a result, schools are not required to set targets for future years or report on those previously set for 2019 to 2020 onwards. However, the annual attendance data collections will continue.
Under the current circumstances the Welsh Government’s view is that punitive measures, including fines, would not be appropriate measures to take unless authorities deem it necessary to pursue a small number of cases relating to persistent absence, which are unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic; and there are concerns about the welfare of the child; or there have been extensive efforts to try and re-engage with the family by the school and / or the EWS. In such cases authorities should follow guidance set out in the All Wales Attendance Framework.
In recognition of the need for stability, there will be no changes to term dates nor to the school leaving age for this academic year.
Schools should record attendance and absence in keeping with the following codes; guidance on when they should be used follows the summary.
What code should be used?
Attending school in the a.m.
Attending school in the p.m.
Remote learning due to COVID-19 (where a learner is shielding or self-isolating)
Not required to attend
Illness due to COVID-19
|X||Learners in Year 11 and 13 (beyond 28 May 2021)||Authorised absence|
School-directed absence due to COVID-19 (to include remote learning(
Not required to attend
All other codes apply as per the guidance on school attendance:
/\ (code for learners who attend school)
All children in the expected intake for that day or in a priority group (children of critical workers and vulnerable children) should be recorded as present / \ upon arrival at their school or setting.
[ (temporary code for remote learning due to COVID-19)
This includes individual learners who are unable to physically attend school for reasons understood and agreed by the school. They should be recorded as code [.
This code will apply to learners who are self-isolating for COVID-19-related reasons as set out in the preventative section of this guidance. This includes learners with symptoms of COVID-19; someone in the household with symptoms/who is a positive case; or as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 as notified through the TTP service. This code should not be used for groups of learners directed not to attend by the school; in those circumstances, code Y should be used.
This code could be used for learners who have medical or health reasons preventing them from physically attending or who may have exceptional circumstances such as caring responsibilities. This would also apply if shielding has been recommended for clinically extremely vulnerable learners through a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales.
This code should not be used if the learner is unwell and has a confirmed case of COVID-19. In such a case the code ; should be used.
Schools must engage with parents/carers to understand why learners are not attending and ensure there are not any concerns about learners’ well-being or alternative support options that could be arranged to enable them to attend. Any concerns should be followed up by the school or setting, and where relevant by the local authority. The school should review the situation with the learner and parents/carers on a regular basis to avoid any prolonged absence.
The temporary code will be used for analysis of our informal weekly data collection but [ will be mapped to the X code for the statutory primary and secondary attendance collections and statistical purposes.
; (code for a confirmed case of COVID-19)
Code ; should be used if the learner has been notified they have a confirmed case of COVID-19. This would only apply when they have a positive test result and the school has been notified accordingly.
The temporary code ; is for school use only and schools should remind all SIMS users of their duty of confidentiality. The code will not be used for analysis of the Welsh Government’s informal weekly data collection but ; will be mapped to the I code.
X (temporary code for those in Years 11 and 13, after 28 May 2021)
There is no requirement for learners in Year 11 and 13 to attend their school or setting after 28 May. Code X will apply to these learners who are absent from school from 28 May to the end of the current academic year.
Whilst attendance is not mandatory during this time, schools and settings do have the flexibility to focus on further supporting student transition from Years 11, 12 and 13 for the remainder of the summer term 2021.
Y (code for school-directed absence)
Code Y should be used for school-directed absence, rather than for individuals under code [, and will also involve remote learning. This would happen when the school identifies the need for learners to self-isolate due to a confirmed case in school. Code Y should also be used in event of partial or full closure due to COVID-19; this includes when the school does not have sufficient staff capacity, or a school is closed due to a lockdown. This code should also be used for staggered starts when learners are not required to be physically present in school. This code should not be used for inset days which should be recorded as code #.
Using other authorised absence and attendance codes
In line with our guidance on school attendance codes an agreed family holiday authorised by the headteacher will be coded as H, and an agreed extended holiday will be coded as F. A family holiday not agreed by the head teacher, or in excess of what was agreed, will be coded as G. On return from the holiday some families will be required to self-isolate if they have travelled from a non-exempt country. This period of self-isolation should be recorded in accordance with the code used for the family holiday.
Where other specific authorised absence and attendance codes are more appropriate schools should use those as usual.
Welsh Government advice on staff and learner attendance
Under no circumstances should learners or staff attend schools/settings if they:
- feel unwell with or, have any of the identified COVID-19 symptoms
- have tested positive for COVID-19
- live in a household with someone who has symptoms of, or has tested positive for COVID-19.
Whilst all learners will be able to access onsite provision from 12 April, provision will need to continue to be made for children of critical workers to attend a school/setting from the third school day of a closure if a school/setting must temporarily close due to staff shortages as a result cases of coronavirus/self-isolation requirements.
A list of those parents and carers identified as critical workers has been published as part of guidance on identifying children of critical workers.
We have strengthened the duties for LAs providing for the children of critical workers and vulnerable learners with the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020. LAs and proprietors of independent schools must have regard to the list when deciding who is a critical worker. These arrangements extend to 3-year-olds who would have taken up an education place in January 2021.
In deciding who are critical workers, LAs and proprietors of independent schools should consider the types of employment and associated impacts in their area. Schools and settings should speak to parents/carers to identify whether their work is critical to the COVID-19 response.
The law only requires one parent to be a critical worker for the obligation to make arrangements to apply. However, the guidance is clear that although children can have a place, it is not guaranteed.
Whilst all learners will be able to access onsite provision from 12 April, provision will need to continue to be made for vulnerable learners to attend a school/setting from the third school day of a closure if a school/setting must temporarily close due to staff shortages as a result cases of coronavirus/self-isolation requirements.
. Parents/carers of vulnerable children and young people are strongly encouraged to take up the place. If vulnerable learners do not attend, schools should:
- work together with the LA and social worker (where applicable) to follow up with the parent/carer to explore the reason for absence, discussing the school’s concerns using supporting guidance considering the child’s circumstances and best interests
- work together with the LA and social worker (where applicable) and other relevant partners to encourage the child or young person to attend educational provision, particularly where the social worker agrees that the child or young person’s attendance would be appropriate
As all learners return to onsite learning, it is vital that staff have confidence that their school/setting have appropriate arrangements in place to ensure the safety of everyone learning, working or visiting the site.School leaders should explain to staff the measures the school has put in place to reduce risks, schools and settings may wish to use the Action Card at Appendix 2 to promote these measures. We anticipate adherence to the measures in this guidance will provide the necessary reassurance for staff to attend school.
School leaders should explain to staff the measures the school has put in place to reduce risks, schools and settings may wish to use the Action Card at Appendix 2 to promote these measures. We anticipate adherence to the measures in this guidance will provide the necessary reassurance for staff to attend school.
If staff are concerned, including those who may be clinically vulnerable or who believe they may be at possible increased risk from coronavirus, we recommend school leaders discuss any concerns individuals may have around their particular circumstances and reassure staff about the protective measures in place.
Staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable
Staff who are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable should follow the published guidance. The current shielding advice for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will pause on 31 March. From 1 April, all clinically extremely vulnerable staff can return to work. All staff should talk to their employers about how they will be supported when returning to work using the COVID-19 risk Assessment tool for education settings; COVID-19 workforce risk assessment tool, which has recently been updated, to facilitate the discussion. Schools should continue to pay clinically extremely vulnerable staff on their usual terms.
Those living with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable can still attend work where home-working is not possible.
Staff who are at increased risk
Staff who are at increased risk can continue to attend school. While in school they should follow the mitigating measures to minimise the risks of transmission and should have an individual workplace assessment.
This includes taking particular care to observe good hand and respiratory hygiene, minimising contact and maintaining social distancing in line with the provisions set out in the ‘Prevention’ section of this guidance. This provides that ideally, adults should maintain a two-metre distance from others, and where this is not possible avoid close face-to-face contact and minimise time spent within the two metre of space. While the risk of transmission between young children and adults is likely to be low, adults should continue to take care to socially distance from other adults, including older children and adolescents.
People who live with those who are at increased risk can attend the workplace but should ensure they maintain good prevention practice in the workplace and home settings.
Staff who are pregnant
Staff should work at home where possible. If home-working is not possible, pregnant staff and their employers should follow the advice in the COVID-19: advice for pregnant employees.
Pregnant women are in the people at increased risk category and are generally advised to follow the above advice, which applies to all staff in schools and the advice to general public but in doing so be aware that they are at increased risk. All pregnant women should take particular care to practice frequent thorough hand washing, and cleaning of frequently touched areas in their home or workspace, and follow the measures set out in the system of controls section of this guidance to minimise the risks of transmission. Pregnant women are not advised to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
An employer’s workplace risk assessment should already consider any risks to female employees of childbearing age and, in particular, risks to new and expectant mothers (e.g. from working conditions or the use of physical, chemical or biological agents). Any risks identified must be included and managed as part of the general workplace risk assessment. As part of their risk assessment, employers should consider whether adapting duties and/or facilitating home-working may be appropriate to mitigate risks.
If a school is notified that an employee is pregnant, breastfeeding, or has given birth within the last six months, the employer should check the workplace risk assessment to see if any new risks have arisen. If risks are identified during the pregnancy, in the first six months after birth, or while the employee is still breastfeeding, the employer must take appropriate sensible action to reduce, remove or control them.
While it is a legal obligation for employers to regularly review general workplace risks, there is not necessarily a requirement to conduct a specific, separate risk assessment for new and expectant mothers. However, an assessment may help identify any additional action that needs to be taken to mitigate risks.
Employers should be aware that pregnant women from 28 weeks’ gestation, or with underlying health conditions at any gestation, may be at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This is because, although pregnant women of any gestation are at no more risk of contracting the virus than any other non-pregnant person who is in similar health, for those women who are 28 weeks pregnant and beyond there is an increased risk of becoming severely ill, and of pre-term birth, should they contract COVID-19.
This is also the case for pregnant women with underlying health conditions that place them at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (see the latest Gov.UK guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees).
Staff who may otherwise be at increased risk from COVID-19
Some people with particular characteristics may be at comparatively increased risk from COVID-19. Where possible these staff should work from home; however, in circumstances where this is not possible, these staff can attend schools as long as the system of controls set out in this guidance is in place, and should make use of the Covid-19 workforce risk assessment tool developed for the education sector. The reasons for the disparities are complex and there is ongoing research to understand and translate these findings for individuals in the future. Further information is available on the UK Government website.
People who live with those who may have comparatively increased risk from COVID-19 can attend the workplace where it is not possible to work from home, but should continue to adhere to the prevention and mitigating measures.
The all Wales COVID-19 workforce risk assessment tool
The all wales COVID-19 workforce risk assessment tool was developed for use in health and social care workplaces and has been adapted for use in education, youth work, childcare and playwork settings. It is intended to be used to assess if staff are at higher risk of developing more serious symptoms. The local authority and/or school/setting as the employer and/or voluntary organisation if you are a volunteer, has a duty of care to protect the health and safety at work of employees and this includes understanding if they are in a higher risk category for COVID-19.
The approach of the toolkit is a self-assessment in the first instance. This supports and empowers staff to consider their health and well-being, and understand their personal risk of developing more serious symptoms if they come into contact with the COVID-19 virus as either low, high or very high.
Following their self-assessment staff should have confidence to discuss their safety at work and any concerns they may have with their line manager and consider the right actions to mitigate and manage that risk and ensure staff are as protected as much as possible.
Schools and settings will want to consider seeking advice from the local authority’s health and safety adviser(s) regarding its stress risk assessment process. Staff may also wish to consider the need for an individual stress risk assessment, as a number of factors are important considerations in relation to staff well-being. The Health and Safety Executive provides a generic stress risk assessment for use.
Governing bodies and school leaders should have regard to staff (including the headteacher) work–life balance and well-being. Schools and settings should ensure they have explained to all staff the measures they are proposing putting in place and involve all staff in that process.
All employers have a duty of care to their employees, and this extends to their mental health. Schools and settings already have mechanisms to support staff well-being and these will be particularly important, as some staff may be particularly anxious about attending school. Welsh Government is providing additional support for both learner and staff well-being in the current situation.
Schools and settings may need to alter the way in which they deploy their staff, and use existing staff more flexibly. Managers should discuss and agree any changes to staff roles with individuals. However, flexibility in deployment should not lead to individuals operating outside of the scope of their role. Managers should discuss and agree any changes to staff roles with individuals. It is important that planning builds in the need to avoid increases in unnecessary and unmanageable workload burdens. Every effort must be made to ensure classes and roles within classrooms are operating at their usual staff baseline despite absences.
If, having pursued all the immediate options available, you still have concerns about your staffing capacity, then a discussion with the local authority is recommended.
It is important that planning builds in the need to avoid increases in unnecessary and unmanageable workload burdens. This could include a review of existing practices in this respect.
Supply staff and other temporary workers can move between schools. Supply staff, and visitors such as peripatetic teachers, will be expected to comply with the school’s arrangements for managing and minimising risk; schools should ensure that all temporary staff are given access to the information on the safety arrangements in place as soon as possible after the booking is confirmed.
To minimise the numbers of temporary staff entering the school premises, and secure best value, schools may wish to use longer assignments with supply staff and agree a minimum number of hours across the academic year.
Schools must continue to have regard to the statutory safeguarding guidance, keeping learners safe in school.
Schools should review their child protection policy (led by their designated safeguarding lead) to reflect the move to remote education for most learners.
There should be no change to local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, which remain the responsibility of the three safeguarding partners. We expect all local safeguarding partners to be vigilant and responsive to all safeguarding threats and ensure vulnerable children and young people are safe – particularly as more children and young people will be learning remotely.
Catering and free school meals
The Welsh Government will continue to make funding available to local authorities so that they can make free school meal provision to eligible learners who are not required to attend school premises because they are self-isolating as a result of COVID-19.
Funding will be made available at the rate of £19.50 per learner per week (or £3.90 per day) in order that local authorities can continue to make provision for learners who are eligible for free school meals but who are unable to attend because of COVID-19 (i.e. if they are self-isolating). Local authorities can choose which method of provision best suits the needs of their communities (options include food parcels, supermarket vouchers or direct payments to parents’/carers’ bank accounts) and we encourage local authorities to consider operating a number of systems in parallel in order to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable families can be met.
Local authorities will be able to claim from Welsh Government’s COVID-19 hardship fund for additional costs incurred in respect of learners who are in receipt of free school meals and who are self-isolating.
The funding made available is based on the assumption that local authorities will, where possible, meet the first £2.50 per learner per day (£12.50 per week) of any costs incurred, with the Welsh Government paying costs in excess of this amount up to a maximum of £1.40 per learner per day or £7.00 per week. Local authorities are reminded to guard against double funding.
However, the Welsh Government is aware that local authorities will have fixed costs associated with the provision of free school meals. On this basis the Welsh Government accepts that the majority of the budgets for free school meals are likely to be committed. In these instances the local authority may experience difficulties in meeting our expectation that they will meet the first £2.50 per learner per day cost. In these cases we would expect local authorities to investigate if savings have been made in school catering budgets. If this is not possible, and where local authorities can demonstrate that no further budgetary offset is possible, then we will make reasonable exceptions and will pay in excess of £1.40 per learner per day. Local authorities are reminded that they will need to demonstrate that the arrangements they have put in place for the provision in lieu of free school meals represent the best possible value for money, taking account of any health and safety restrictions.
Catering provision for children attending school
Where children are attending school, the Welsh Government’s expectation is that catering provision will be available for learners, unless there are circumstances which might prevent this. There are various reasons why this might be, including the health and safety of pupils and staff. Where catering facilities are open, learners who are eligible for free school meals who are or transitionally protected should be provided with a free meal on each day they attend. Other learners will still be expected to pay for their meals.
We understand that in many schools or settings lunchtimes will be rearranged and/or staggered. However, local authorities are strongly urged to ensure that lunch times take place at a reasonable time, providing learners with as close to a mid-day meal break as possible whilst also ensuring learners have sufficient time to choose, purchase and eat their lunch.
Where catering facilities are not operational and learners eligible for free school meals are being provided with alternative provision (vouchers, food parcels or payments), all learners can be requested to bring in a packed lunch.
In cases where children who have received vouchers or direct payments turn up at school with no food, no money and are hungry, the Welsh Government expects schools to use their discretion to make provision for these children. Schools and local authorities should follow their normal procedures when this occurs.
Where children from families who have already been provided with FSM provision are repeatedly sent to school without lunch, when parents/carers have been requested to provide a lunch because catering facilities are not operational, schools will need to consider whether this is because of underlying child welfare issues, and take appropriate action.
Whether catering is provided in schools or if you chose to deliver food to pupils you will need to ensure that pupils with special diets or allergies are catered for. Care needs to be taken to check with families whether any pupils have allergies or special diets before food is issued to them.
Compliance with “The Healthy Eating in Schools (Nutritional Standards and Requirements) (Wales) Regulations 2013”
It is recognised that in these exceptional circumstances compliance with the Healthy Eating in Schools Regulations may cause increased challenges. The recommendation in these circumstances would be that every effort is made to ensure that the food provided to pupils is as healthy and nutritious as possible, within the current constraints of the local and national supply chains.
Free breakfasts in primary schools
The Welsh Government expects that breakfast clubs should operate as normal, unless it would be unreasonable for them to do so. We would remind local authorities that have decided not to operate free school breakfast clubs in primary schools that the legal duty to do this still applies. Where a local authority ran a free school breakfast scheme prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, they are still under the same legal duty to provide a free school breakfast (section 88 of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013). It is not possible to say what will or will not be unreasonable in any particular situation and you will need to consider a range of factors. The Welsh Government has produced guidance on the provision of free breakfasts in primary school and this guidance lists some of the considerations:
- demand for the provision of free breakfast in the maintained school
- availability/suitability of a venue to undertake the provision of free breakfast
- availability/suitability of facilities within the maintained school to provide the provision
- availability/suitability of staff to supervise the breakfast provision
This list is not exhaustive and, in the current circumstances, another major consideration for local authorities will also be the health and safety of pupils and staff and social distancing requirements.
Local authorities are encouraged to discuss any decision not to re-open a breakfast club with their legal advisors. They are also encouraged to communicate decisions and the reasons for taking them with parents as soon as they can.
Provision of free school meals during school holidays
The Welsh Government has also made available funding at the rate of £19.50 per week per learner to make free school meal provision available during school holidays throughout the 2021 to 2022 financial year. This includes the May Day bank holiday 2021. As local authority budgets will not include any provision for free school meals during school holidays, it is anticipated that local authorities will claim the full amount of £19.50 per week.
Learners in years 11 and 13 who are eligible for free school meals should continue to receive free school meal provision until the end of the 2021 school summer holiday.
Fire safety management plans should be reviewed and checked in line with operational changes.
Schools should check:
- all fire doors are operational at all times
- the fire alarm system and emergency lights have been tested and are fully operational
Carry out emergency drills as normal (following social distancing and other safety measures as appropriate).
You should make adjustments to your fire drill to allow for social distancing as appropriate. Refer to advice on fire safety in new and existing school buildings.
Local authorities are responsible for the implementation of this section of the guidance, working with the operators with whom they contract to ensure necessary measures are put in place in line with risk assessments (which should involve appropriate consultation with trade unions and staff). Parents/carers and school staff should all play a role in educating children and young people on acceptable behaviour on school and public transport.
This guidance has been informed by the scientific advice of the Technical Advisory Cell Children and Education Sub Group, and with advice from Public Health Wales (PHW).
Local authorities are required to assess the travel needs of learners who are aged under 19 in their area. This includes those who they are legally required to provide transport for and those for whom they may wish to provide discretionary transport when assessing travel needs. An authority is also required to have regard to:
- the needs of disabled learners and learners with learning difficulties
- any particular needs of learners who are ‘looked after’ or formerly looked after by a local authority
- the age of learners
- the nature of the route that learners could reasonably be expected to take between home and the places where they receive education or training
- the likely distance the learner is to travel between home and the place where they receive education and training
In assessing the travel needs of learners, local authorities must take into account the fact that travel arrangements they make in light of the assessment must not cause unreasonable levels of stress, take an unreasonable amount of time or be unsafe.
This section provides guidance on putting in place proportionate safeguards to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on dedicated home to school transport to ensure learners can attend school/settings.
This guidance applies to all dedicated home to school transport. By this, we mean services which exclusively carry learners travelling to and from school and/or settings. This includes:
- services commissioned or provided by local authorities, whether or not the service is provided free of charge
- services commissioned or provided by schools and settings
- services provided by transport operators (commercial travel routes) which cannot be boarded by members of the public at the same time as they are carrying learners to school or settings
Vehicles that provide transport to members of the public at other times are considered dedicated home to school transport when they are exclusively carrying children and young people travelling to and from school and settings; this includes taxis and minibuses.
During this time as far as it is safe to do so, the use of active travel routes by parents/carers, staff and learners should be encouraged. Walking and cycling, scooting, wheeling, etc. should be strongly encouraged. In view of the potential for capacity constraints on public transport to impact learner’s ability to attend school, all sustainable and active travel modes should be considered.
- Local authorities remain under a statutory duty to provide free home to school transport for all eligible learners of compulsory school age over certain distances from their education centres (2 miles primary/3 miles secondary) as specified in the learner travel Wales measure) and to publish a transport statement (section ‘Discretionary Transport Arrangements’) detailing what travel assistance they will provide for young people over 16 which is discretionary.
- Local authorities, working with schools, settings and transport operators, and following consultation with their health and safety advisers and trade unions, should undertake a risk assessment for dedicated school transport journeys in their local area that takes account of the routes travelled and the users of the services; the nature of the transport used and the opportunity for adaption and local transport capacity, i.e. the opportunity to scale up provision. The risk assessment must be signed off by the appropriate local authority officer (e.g. Head of Service), advised by health and safety officers, passenger transport officers and other relevant officers and notified to contractors and operators in accordance with usual practice. They must then work through the system of controls set out in this section and adopt measures in a way that addresses the identified risk, works in the local circumstances, and allows learners to attend their school/setting.
- Face coverings should be worn by pupils in year 7 and above when travelling on dedicated school transport to secondary schools/settings. There is no requirement to wear a face covering on dedicated home to school transport (Part 5 of Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020).
- Wherever capacity allows social distancing should be implemented between learners, or groups of learners, and between drivers/passenger assistants. Where it is not possible, other measures from the system of controls set out below, should be put in place.
- There is no requirement to maintain contact groups on school transport providing a consistent group of learners travel on the same bus each day they attend. The use of dedicated school transport to serve several schools should be avoided where possible, particularly between school clusters.
- Local authorities should ensure that operators are aware of the safe use of face coverings, e.g. hand washing before and after putting on and removing face coverings, safe disposal or storage and that these are not a substitute for other control measures advocated in this
Assets are available in relation to dedicated home to school transport which local authorities, schools and settings may find helpful
A range of specific considerations and control measures may be adopted for specific groups or in response to particular circumstances. These will be for local consideration and adoption following a risk assessment.
Taxis and private hire vehicles
Some learners, including those with additional support needs, rely on taxi or private hire vehicle transfers to get to and from school/setting. Where taxis are used solely for the purpose of transporting children and young people to and from school, as with dedicated school bus and coach services, physical distancing requirements are not required. It is however recommended that in taxis and private hire vehicles learners’ travel in the back seat only.
There should be careful consideration of how learners with additional needs can be provided with safe, bespoke transport arrangements. This could include the introduction of cleaning protocols, driving with the windows open (when possible) or finding larger vehicles for transportation. Local authorities and schools should liaise with their local private hire providers on the measures they are putting in place to protect learners, including for the arrangements for carrying multiple learners.
Guidance for taxis and private hire vehicles is available.
When travel by taxi or private hire vehicle is necessary, learners should be advised to follow the advice of the driver. Appropriate cleaning and sanitising measures will also be necessary. Face to face seating where available should not be used.
Taxi and private hire vehicle drivers in Wales will be able to claim a free pack of high quality PPE and vehicle cleaning materials, funded by Welsh Government. The move is intended to increase confidence in travelling safely for drivers and passengers.
High quality educational visits play an important role in enriching teaching and learning as well as support learner wellbeing. In line with the relaxation of other restrictions, such as the reopening of indoor and outdoor visitor attractions and the resumption of indoor and outdoor organised activities, schools and settings may wish to consider undertaking domestic day visits where visiting locations outside of the school or setting estate is integral to the learning experience.
As set out elsewhere in this guidance, maximising time spent outdoors by learners has physical, mental and educational benefits. and generally the risk of transmitting COVID-19 is lower outdoors compared to indoors. However, mitigating measures such as social distancing or using face coverings where this is not possible and if relevant, and maintaining good hand hygiene, are still needed outdoors. Schools and settings are encouraged to consider this in the planning of any visits.
Schools and settings wishing to undertake domestic day educational visits should continue to undertake the usual risk assessment processes when planning visits. This risk assessment should include arrangements if a learner develops Covid-19 symptoms during the visit. Travel time should be minimised wherever possible. Schools and settings should also consider the guidance set out elsewhere in this document, including but not limited to:
- minimising contact with others
- maintaining social distancing
- maintaining good hand hygiene
They should also consider other relevant Welsh Government guidance, including, but not limited to:
- travelling safely (coronavirus): guidance for the public
- current restrictions: frequently asked questions
The Outdoor Education Advisers Panel has also developed guidance which may be useful for schools and settings considering undertaking visits.
Schools and settings considering travelling from Wales to another part of the UK or wider Common Travel Area (Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) for the purpose of an educational visit should be mindful of any restrictions in place at the destination of their visit and follow any related guidance as well as the guidance set out in this document.
We continue to advise against domestic residential educational visits, as well as international residential educational visits. Travel from Wales to an international destination outside the Common Travel Area is not allowed without a reasonable excuse – educational visits are not considered a reasonable excuse. We will continue to keep our advice under review.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has produced information on travel insurance implications following the COVID-19 outbreak. If schools and settings have any further questions about their cover or would like further reassurance, they should contact their travel insurance provider.
Decisions regarding the wearing of school uniforms are a matter for individual schools' governing bodies. However, we would encourage all schools to return to their usual uniform policies as uniform can play a valuable role in contributing to the ethos of a school and setting an appropriate tone.
If a governing body decides to relax its uniform policy a poverty conscious approach should be taken, which bears in mind that some families may struggle to purchase specific or additional items of clothing. PDG-Access should be promoted to eligible families.
Annex A: Approach to risk estimation and management
This hierarchy of controls is a way to prioritise risk control measures based on how effective different types of control are in reducing risks. Risk reduction measures should be assessed in order of the priority given in the hierarchy; it is not a case of simply jumping to the easiest control measure to implement. Types of control higher up the hierarchy are more effective at reducing risks than those lower down.
Controls should be practical to be implemented and, ideally, should be able to be maintained easily over time.
It is critical to remember that it will only rarely be feasible to eliminate the risk completely. The combination of controls introduced should aim to reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practicable, prioritising structural and environmental interventions over individual level ones.
This of course does not simply mean considering risks of transmission, but also balancing these against risks to wider health and well-being and learning. Ultimately schools need the flexibility to respond to these risks as they are able to.
When considering contact between contact groups, we would advise schools to consider the following:
- Elimination: redesign the activity such that the risk is removed or eliminated.
- Substitution: replace the activity with an activity that reduces the risk. Care is required to avoid introducing new hazards from the substitution.
- Engineering controls: design measures that help control or mitigate risk.
- Administrative controls: identify and implement the procedures to improve safety.
- Having gone through this process, PPE should be used where the guidance recommends this.