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Introduction

The Coronavirus Control Plan for Wales: autumn and winter 2021 update sets out that, despite the challenges the winter period poses, we expect schools, alongside childcare and play settings, colleges and universities, to remain open, reflecting the impact of vaccination and the balance of risks and harms.

Baseline measures including risk assessments and taking reasonable measures to minimise exposure to, and the spread of, coronavirus based on that risk assessment, improved hygiene, ventilation and preventing attendance by individuals with COVID-19 symptoms will continue to be in place, regardless of Alert Level. But other measures will reflect the situation at a point in time, as part of a proportionate system of controls. For education settings, this allows some flexibility for local decision-making, supported by public health teams, regional Incident Management Teams (IMTs) and underpinned by risk assessments.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with:

  • the Welsh Government’s overall guidance for employers, businesses and organisations at alert level 2
  • the local testing and infection control framework for post-16 providers at Annex A, which enables providers to tailor interventions to reflect local risks and circumstances

Operation of post-16 learning: alert levels

The alert level system allows measures and interventions to address specific risks. Regardless of the alert level at any point, the following three key points are central to the approach in colleges:

  • The fundamental principle remains that the most effective way to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in our colleges is to stop infection being brought on site.
  • The best way to manage personal risks is to take up the offer of vaccination, and we encourage those eligible for vaccination to take up this offer.
  • If anyone tests positive for COVID-19 they must self-isolate and not attend college.

Learning providers:

  • must take reasonable measures to protect learners, staff and others from COVID-19 within their premises
  • must ensure risk assessments satisfy the requirements of regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety in the Workplace Regulations 1999
  • must continue to carry out specific coronavirus risk assessments for their buildings and activities, building on their learning to date and practices they have already developed during the pandemic
  • should follow the system of control set out in this guidance
  • should follow any relevant workplace guidance, where they are operating facilities such as training salons, restaurants or gyms
  • should follow the local testing and infection control framework, taking account of local risk levels and advice from local IMTs

Risk assessments

Learning providers should follow the guidance for employers, businesses and organisations, which refers to requirements for employers to carry out risk assessments. A risk assessment template is also available. For additional guidance, see the Health & Safety Executive’s website.

For learners, including apprentices, whose learning takes place in the workplace, the responsibility for the safety of the learning environment rests with the employer; but the learning provider must satisfy itself of the safety of its staff who are undertaking workplace delivery. Apprenticeship providers must undertake a health and safety review of employer premises to determine how assessors can safely undertake visits, and must confirm with employers that appropriate arrangements are in place that accord with the coronavirus Regulations. Where providers are arranging work placements on behalf of learners they must ensure that a risk assessment is carried out to assure themselves that the workplace is COVID-aware and that appropriate mitigations are in place.

Learning providers should work with staff, parents/carers, learners and employers so that there is clarity on what the revised arrangements are and how they will work in practice and have active arrangements in place to monitor that the controls are:

  • effective
  • working as planned
  • updated appropriately, considering any issues identified and changes in local risk levels, any changes to local or national alert levels, and public health advice

Local testing and infection control framework

There are well established local systems in place to gather intelligence and information through Test Trace Protect (TTP), Public Health Wales, health boards and local authorities working with education settings. Incident Management Teams (IMTs) are also in place to manage clusters/outbreaks. It will be important for colleges to be part of their local IMT to share intelligence and respond to incidents when necessary.

The national risk level for Wales will continue to be determined nationally by Welsh Government and communicated to learning providers. This is separate to the national Alert Levels for Wales. Table 1 of the local testing and infection control framework at Annex A identifies indicators that will be used by local public health officials to assess whether the risk level – for a region, area or individual learning provider premises – differs from the national risk level. This may, for example, happen when there is a cluster or outbreak associated with a learning provider. In these cases local Incident Management Teams will work with the provider to review its risk assessment and put additional proportionate tailored interventions in place using Table 2 of the framework. Any decision to recommend the reintroduction of tailored interventions such as contact groups or reduced attendance would be taken in discussion with public health, TTP and the provider.

Safeguarding clinically vulnerable learners and staff

Clinically extremely vulnerable learners and staff

Please refer to the Guidance on protecting people defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable.

Where a staff member falls into the clinically extremely vulnerable (ex-shielding) category, their employer should follow employer guidance to ensure that suitable and sufficient measures are in place to minimise the risks of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace setting. The Welsh Government recommends that risk assessments be made on an individual basis for such individuals, taking account of their individual needs and circumstances. Where possible, staff in this group should be supported to continue to work from home.

Learners or staff at ‘increased risk’

Individuals at ‘increased risk’ can attend their learning provider, as long as safety measures are in place as set out in this guidance and the reasonable measures guidance.

Guidance for pregnant women and employers is available from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website.

The Welsh Government’s workforce risk assessment tool can be used by any member of staff to undertake a self-assessment, and it is recommended particularly for those at increased risk or clinically extremely vulnerable. There are also a number of models which can be used to support managers during discussions with their teams about an individual’s personal risk factors when returning to, or remaining in, the workplace. The aim is to help enable good quality conversations between managers and colleagues about any personal circumstances which may increase their risk from coronavirus, and to agree any actions which need to be carried out in line with the Management of Health and Safety in the Workplace Regulations 1999. It is important that all staff and learners in this category have opportunities to discuss any concerns they may have before they attend their education/work setting.

Learners and staff who are anxious about attending their provider

The alert level guidance for the public provides information on protective behaviours that can help to manage the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Providers should bear in mind the potential concerns of learners and staff who may be reluctant or anxious about attending and put the right communications and support in place to address this. This may include those who have themselves been shielding previously but have been advised that this is no longer necessary, those living in households where someone is at increased risk, or those concerned about the comparatively increased risk from COVID-19, including those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

If learners or staff with significant risk factors (or learners’ parents or carers) are concerned, we recommend that the provider discuss their concerns, conduct an individual risk assessment and provide reassurance of the suitable and sufficient measures they are putting in place to reduce the risk from attending.

The system of controls for post-16 learning

The system of controls established by Public Health Wales continues to provide a set of principles for infection control; if learning providers follow this advice and maximise the use of these control measures, they should effectively minimise risks of viral transmission. All elements of the system of control are essential. All learning providers must address each of these elements, but the way they implement some of the requirements will differ based on their individual circumstances and local context. 

The system of controls is set out below:

Prevention

  1. Minimise contact between individuals wherever possible
  2. Ensure that individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19, or who have been asked to self-isolate by TTP do not attend their learning centre
  3. Ensure adequate levels of ventilation
  4. Ensure good hand and respiratory hygiene
  5. Ensure proportionate cleaning regimes are in place
  6. Wear face coverings where required and/or, where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

Response to any infection

  1. Comply with the Welsh Government’s and NHS’ Test, Trace, Protect strategy
  2. Contain any outbreak by following local health protection team advice

1. Minimise contact between individuals wherever possible

At all alert levels physical distancing is still highly effective and remains one of the reasonable measures that should be considered to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19. This means that, as part of their risk assessments, learning providers should consider how close face-to-face interaction can be minimised, alongside the other controls such as ventilation and face coverings. The guidance for employers, businesses and organisations provides examples of ways to support physical distancing.

Learning providers should consider how best to use the available space, including outdoor space, to maximise the distance between people where possible. Individuals (both learners and staff) should be encouraged to maintain social distancing from each other whenever possible, as any steps taken to minimise contact will help to limit transmission. Where there is room to configure classrooms or workshops, staff working areas, common rooms, resource centres and other shared spaces to maintain distancing, providers should do so.

Learners who are interacting with clients or in a “hands-on” way with one another to practice techniques, and learners who spend time on employer premises, are at greater risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 and this should be reflected in risk assessments and ensuing actions.

Contact tracing will be used to identify close contacts of learners or staff who have tested positive and who may have to self-isolate as a result. Current  guidance on self-isolation sets out the requirements in detail.

Learning providers should ensure they plan for the possibility that in some local circumstances it may become necessary to reintroduce contact groups on a temporary basis, to help reduce risks of transmission. Any decision to recommend the reintroduction of contact groups would need to be taken in discussion with public health officials and the local authority, as part of the local testing and infection control framework.

Learning providers have flexibility to decide how they wish to use blended learning models, both to manage any self-isolation requirements and to enhance all learners’ experiences.

Work-based learners

Apprenticeship assessors can undertake routine workplace visits at alert level 2 for reviews, assessments and meetings, as set out in the local testing and infection control framework. They should have regard to employer guidance for the workplace and any industry-specific guidance. Traineeship work placements can take place, subject to risk assessments and local risk levels, as set out in the local testing and infection control framework.

Working from home

People should continue to work from home where possible, as part of Wales’ overall efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. Learning providers should make their own decisions locally, in consultation with staff and their representatives, on what this means in practice. In doing this they should have regard to the guidance for employers, businesses and organisations, and should consider:

  • whether alternative arrangements could meet business needs
  • whether any individual’s wellbeing would be particularly adversely affected by returning to the workplace, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • whether particular workspaces should not be used by those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or particularly anxious about returning to work, for example because those spaces are small or poorly ventilated
  • whether working from home would be detrimental to efficiency, teamworking, the achievement of business objectives, or employees’ wellbeing
  • whether flexible working arrangements could be used to achieve an appropriate balance of on-site and remote working

2. Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have COVID-19 symptoms, or who have tested positive for COVID-19, do not attend their college or training centre or work setting

Under no circumstances should learners or staff attend their learning provider or workplace if they:

  • feel unwell and have any of the identified COVID-19 symptoms. If this is the case, they must self-isolate immediately and book a COVID-19 test
  • have tested positive for COVID-19
  • have been asked to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service

Learning providers should have regard to the guidance for employers on COVID-19 vaccinations, to ensure that they do not discriminate against staff who are not vaccinated. However, if unvaccinated staff are identified as contacts of a positive case, they will have to self-isolate as instructed by TTP and will have no exemption. 

Learning providers play an important role in supporting contact tracers to undertake their role in determining the contacts of a positive case. The overall aim is to safely minimise the number of contacts resulting from a positive case. It will not be a one size fits all approach and settings will need to determine how they can most effectively reflect their local context and circumstances.

Providers should have a clear escalation policy and procedures in place if they become aware that a learner or member of staff has symptoms of COVID-19 while at their college or centre. These need to be fully understood by staff, learners (where able) and parents/carers.

Surfaces that learners or staff with symptoms have come into contact with should be carefully and thoroughly cleaned.

Anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should stay at home and self-isolate while also making arrangements to be tested. The Welsh Government’s self-isolation guidance sets out the actions to be followed and the periods of isolation required for those with possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and their household members, and this should be read carefully and adhered to.

Learners or staff who have had a positive Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test should not attend their learning provider, and should arrange for a confirmatory PCR test.

3. Ensure adequate levels of ventilation

Those in control of premises have a legal duty to ensure effective ventilation. Further advice on ventilation is set out in the guidance for employers, businesses and organisations.

Colleges should follow the ‘How to use’ guide for carbon dioxide monitors as an aid to managing ventilation in education settings.

4. Ensure good hand and respiratory hygiene

Washing hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and running water or hand sanitiser is an effective way of minimising the risk of contracting COVID-19. It is important that everyone continues to practice respiratory hygiene through covering coughs and sneezes and the immediate and safe disposal of used tissues and washing hands immediately afterwards. The ‘catch it, bin it, kill it, wash your hands’ approach continues to be very important, so providers must ensure that they have enough sanitiser stations, tissues and bins available to support learners and staff to follow this routine.

Providers should, via messages, signage and notices, remind all learners of the need to clean their hands regularly, including when they arrive, when they return from breaks, when they change rooms, after putting on or removing face coverings, and before and after eating. Regular and thorough hand cleaning is going to be needed for the foreseeable future.

It is also important that staff and learners continue to wear face coverings in indoor public areas and in other places where a risk assessment has identified this as a reasonable measure to be taken (see section 6).

Learners with complex needs should continue to be helped to clean their hands properly. Some learners with complex needs may find it difficult to maintain good respiratory hygiene effectively. This should be considered in risk assessments in order to support these learners and the staff working with them.

5. Ensure proportionate cleaning regimes are in place

Cleaning regimes need to be proportionate and in line with that required for any other comparable communicable disease. Learning providers do not need to routinely set aside specific days for deep cleaning. If however there is a confirmed case in the provider’s premises, a deep clean of the immediate area will continue to be helpful in reducing transmission.

6. Wear face coverings where required and/or, where necessary, wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

Face coverings

Our guidance regarding the use of face coverings has changed temporarily as a precautionary step while we learn more about the Omicron variant of concern. The following measures should be in place in all colleges regardless of risk level.

Face coverings should be worn by staff and visitors in all indoor areas of all educational settings, including classrooms, where physical distance cannot be maintained.

Face coverings should be worn by secondary aged learners in all indoor areas, including classrooms, where physical distance cannot be maintained.

Face coverings should also be worn on dedicated provider transport, aligning with the continued requirement for face coverings on public transport.

Face coverings should be worn by other visitors who are entering public areas of the provider’s premises, including parents, contractors and members of the public. Learning providers should consider in their risk assessments for each centre whether the general public (individuals other than staff or learners) have or are permitted access to public areas, to determine where face coverings should be used.

Face coverings are not generally required outdoors, unless in a crowded or confined space where social distancing is not possible, and should not be worn whilst participating in sport or fitness activities.

Learners on work placements and visiting tutors must abide by the arrangements in place at those workplaces.

Face coverings may need to be provided to learners who may be unable to obtain them through other means, if they are recommended by risk assessments or at their work placements. Providers should be sensitive to the needs of those who may have exemptions, such as people who have existing medical conditions; complex needs which means that they cannot correctly use a face covering, and those who are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who is deaf or has any level of hearing loss. Providers should put systems in place to ensure staff know when and how to challenge those not using face coverings in public or communal areas.

Where a decision is made to use a face covering we would encourage that individuals use recyclable/multi use face coverings and use them correctly, covering the mouth and nose, ensuring hand hygiene before putting on and following removal. The World Health Organization recommends that face coverings should be made up of three layers, but should not be medical-grade face masks. 

Regardless of their provider’s policy, learners and staff may choose to use face coverings to help minimise the risk to themselves and others, and should be encouraged to do so if this helps them to feel more confident about attending their college or learning setting. If anyone wishes to wear a face covering for personal reasons anywhere on-site, indoors or outdoors, when it is otherwise not mandated, they should be permitted to do so. This may help support wider wellbeing, reduce anxiety and provide additional reassurance for some individuals alongside other mitigating measures.

PPE

PPE is protective equipment that is manufactured to a regulated standard to give the wearer a known level of protection against a health or safety hazard. Circumstances where PPE may be required are:

  • Suspected cases of COVID-19
    • Gloves, aprons and a fluid-resistant surgical mask should be worn if someone 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
  • Intimate care
    • Gloves and aprons should continue to be used when providing intimate care to a learner. 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 and 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, fluid repellent gowns, FFP3 masks and eye protection are indicated when undertaking aerosol generating care 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
  • Vocational learning
    • Where learners are studying vocational or work-based programmes, learning providers should have regard to any appropriate workplace guidance for the relevant industry. Where work placements require industry-standard PPE to be worn, people on placement and visiting assessors must comply with any requirements in this regard
    • For “close contact” industries like hairdressing or care, where learners require physical contact with clients or with one another in order to learn skills and carry out assessments, industry-standard PPE must be worn

Learners and staff should have training on the safe use of PPE, where relevant. All staff should understand how to put on or remove medical grade 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 medical grade PPE.

7. Comply with the Welsh Government’s and NHS’ Test, Trace, Protect strategy

Test, Trace, Protect

A positive test on site does not require closure of that site. The process of testing and contact tracing is part of the ‘new normal’ and where providers follow these guidelines carefully, there is no cause for alarm. 

The Welsh Government has published guidance on keeping records on staff, customers and visitors. This can be used by providers as one of the reasonable measures to help to identify individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

To support the operation of education settings, lateral flow device (LFD) testing is being made available to provider staff and learners. Guidance is available via the LFD asset bank.

8. Manage confirmed cases within the provider and contain any outbreak, by following local health protection team advice

Building upon the Communicable Disease Outbreak Plan for Wales (2020), Public Health Wales has provided specific advice regarding the investigation and management of clusters and incidents of COVID-19.

If there are multiple cases of COVID-19 in a learning provider’s premises, then experts including TTP, Public Health Wales and Incident Management Teams will work together to prevent ongoing transmission. Regional TTP teams will appoint a clear lead for the investigation of a cluster and will work with the head of the provider or their nominated deputy. Advice based on the assessment of each individual situation will be provided to support the provider in preventing further spread, using the additional tailored interventions identified in the local testing and infection control framework.

TTP teams are normally responsible for contacting each positive case and collecting information about their close contacts both within and outside the provider’s premises. Learning providers may work with their local TTP teams to agree their own arrangements to identify and notify close contacts, in order to ensure that tracing is efficient and minimises disruption to learning.

Educational visits

Learning providers wishing to undertake any type of educational visit, including those involving overnight stays, should ensure a risk assessment is undertaken. This should include arrangements for what will happen if a member of the group develops COVID-19 symptoms during the visit.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has produced information on travel insurance implications following the COVID-19 outbreak. If learning providers have any further questions about their cover or would like further reassurance, they should contact their travel insurance provider.

Further guidance regarding educational visits is available from the Outdoor Education Advisers Panel, which has developed guidance which may be useful for learning providers considering undertaking visits.

Annex A: Testing and infection control framework for further education, work-based and adult learning from January 2022

This framework provides testing and infection prevention control measures for post-16 learning providers from January 2022, and sets out how these measures may be varied in response to the pandemic. It underpins operational arrangements in providers as well as helping learners, staff and the wider community understand how this suite of measures will work in future. 

The framework should be read in conjunction with the Safe Operation guidance. This explains other measures that should remain in place regardless of local risk levels, including:

  • All staff and learners should be reminded to follow the Welsh Government guidance for self-isolation and household isolation as appropriate and instructed not to attend if they have any symptoms, or anyone in their household has symptoms
  • Staff and learners should get a test as soon as they have symptoms
  • Regular handwashing, social distancing and respiratory etiquette (Catch it, Bin it, Kill it, Wash Your Hands) to prevent spread and limit cases, incidents and outbreaks
  • Adequate ventilation by opening windows or adjusting ventilation systems
  • All those eligible should get both jabs and when invited, get their booster as a priority

The Coronavirus Control Plan for Wales: autumn and winter 2021 update sets out that, despite the challenges the winter period poses, we expect schools, childcare and play settings, colleges and universities, to remain open.

The framework should be used irrespective of the alert level that a particular area of Wales (or the whole of Wales) is in at a particular time. It may be, for example, at alert level zero that a cluster of positive results in a particular geographical area (e.g. in the community where a provider is located) would result in a provider using the framework to assess the risk level and localised measures even if the alert level under the Regulations does not change for that particular area.

However, it must be noted that:

  • Where an alert level under the Regulations applies a stricter requirement than set out in this framework, then that stricter requirement must be adhered to
  • Where no requirement applies, or a less strict requirement applies under an alert level under the Regulations, then the approach set out under the relevant risk level in the framework should be followed. In these circumstances any additional reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to or spread of coronavirus that are identified as the result of a provider’s risk assessment should also be put in place

Many of these measures are not binary, there will be incremental steps between the measures listed below that may need to be employed to reflect the specific risks identified by the provider for its sites, its staff, its learners and its communities. Their use in each provider should respond dynamically based on local intelligence, advice issued by the Welsh Government, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Chief Scientific Advisor for Health, and other professionals. Measures can be, and should be, escalated and de-escalated accordingly, based on established risk assessment processes.

Determining the level of risk

Learning providers will be notified by the Welsh Government when alert levels change.

Locally there are well-established systems in place to gather intelligence and feedback information to Welsh Government from Regional IMTs via Situation Based Action Reports (SBARs) and by TTP, Public Health Wales (PHW) and local authorities working with schools. Regional IMTs provide oversight of COVID-19 in their areas, and work closely with a range of stakeholders including colleges to reduce the spread of the virus. It will continue to be important for colleges to be part of their local IMT to share intelligence and respond to incidents when necessary.

The following bullet points illustrate the flow of information and how this informs decisions on local interventions. It should be viewed as a cyclical flow of information rather than a start and end:

  • Welsh Government decides on the national alert level, based on local and national intelligence
  • Welsh Government informs IMTs/TTP leads of the national alert level
  • IMTs/TTP leads inform local authorities, schools, colleges and universities of national alert level and identify any areas or regions where the risk may differ
  • Colleges implement the appropriate variable measures for that risk level, or identify which variable measures may need to be introduced if risk differs from national alert level
  • IMTs/TTP leads discuss any key points with the college
  • IMTs/TTP leads share intelligence with Welsh Government to inform decision on national alert levels

Table 1 sets out the overall risk ratings, whilst Table 2 sets out the framework of measures that providers will use in response to changes in that risk rating.

Table 1: Overall risk ratings
Level of risk Description Actions
Low
  • The uptake of 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine is above 85% for priority groups 1-9 and there is no evidence of waning immunity
  • While 7 day incidence may be increasing the majority of infections are reported in those 30 years of age and younger who have not been vaccinated or have received just 1 dose
  • The percentage of community cases requiring hospital admission remains low
  • Deaths remain low
  • Delivery of frontline health and social care and blue light services are not at risk due to number of individuals self-isolating
  • LA enforcement of business compliance remains low
  • Minimal introduction of infection into closed settings or schools
  • Genomics provides no intelligence that a variant of interest or concern has been identified
  • Symptomatic individuals will continue to self-isolate and have a test, responding appropriately to the result. Asymptomatic testing of various cohorts is being undertaken as per guidance
  • Cases are contacted as soon as possible so that contacts can be advised to self-isolate and reduce the risk of on-ward spread
  • Action is ongoing locally to support uptake of the vaccine in those who were not receptive to receiving it on first offer
  • Engaging with local communities to ensure that the good behaviours in high risk settings (areas of poor ventilation and overcrowding) can continue and communities are receptive to this
  • Agencies are working proactively across all sectors to ensure that they can operate in a risk based environment
  • Reactive enforcement of business compliance
Moderate
  • The uptake of 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine is above 85% for priority groups 1-9 and there is no evidence of waning immunity
  • The 7 day rolling incidence of infection continues to rise. All new infections are being responded to and evidence from TTP shows that while the majority of infections are still occurring in the younger mobile population the incidence of infection in those 60 years and over has started to increase
  • Hospital admissions are increasing albeit from a low base but he percentage of community cases requiring hospital admission remains less low
  • Deaths remain low
  • There is increasing introduction of infections in care homes (often single staff member) and schools suggestive of significant transmission in the community
  • Levels of LA enforcement increasing. Emerging evidence that business non-compliance is associated with clusters of infection
  • Genomics provides no intelligence that a variant of interest or concern has been identified
  • Symptomatic individuals will continue to self-isolate and have a test, responding appropriately to the result. Asymptomatic testing of various cohorts is being undertaken as per guidance
  • In addition to responding to all new infections backward tracing is continuing and may provide evidence that the chains of transmission from known risks are seeding infection in the wider community
  • At this stage consideration will be given to identified risks (for example wet pubs/clubs) for acquisition of infection which will influence the introduction of further local actions and communications
  • LA enforcement powers being used effectively to assure compliance with restriction regulations and in response to clusters
  • Proactive engagement locally with specific business sectors where there is emerging evidence of ongoing risk
  • Evidence from TTP may suggest that no one sector is driving transmission but there is poor understanding of the personal behaviours that can reduce risk of both acquisition of infection and t potential risk to others. The IMT will consider how best to engage with the community and support them in understanding their personal risk and risk to the wider population
  • Action is ongoing locally to support uptake of the vaccine in those who were not receptive to receiving it on first offer
High
  • The uptake of 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine is above 85% for priority groups 1-9, increasing incidence of infection in the vaccination population may indicate evidence of waning immunity
  • Not all new infections are being investigated. Resources are targeting clusters and incidents in high risk settings (for example care homes). There is widespread transmission in the community as evidenced by the number of small household and social clusters and clusters in open and closed workplaces
  • Incidence rates in the over 60s is increasing and the percentage of community cases requiring hospital admission has increased
  • Deaths are increasing
  • There is significant impact on frontline services due to the number of staff self-isolating
  • Hospital admissions are increasing and the impact on health and social care is felt by the number of care homes in the ‘red’, delaying discharge of the elderly and causing bottlenecks in the NHS
  • There is significant impact on frontline health and social care and blue light services due to the number of staff self-isolating
  • Increasing evidence that business non-compliance is associated with clusters of infection
  • Genomics provides no intelligence that a new variant of interest or concern is a driver for the rising incidence of infection
  • Symptomatic individuals will continue to self-isolate and have a test, responding appropriately to the result. Asymptomatic testing of various cohorts is being undertaken as per guidance
  • Increasingly actions are focussed on minimising the risk to vulnerable communities and targeting larger clusters to minimise harm
  • There is increasing reliance on mutual aid in order to, as a minimum, promote the isolation message and identify contacts. Backward tracing is undertaken only in exceptional circumstances
  • A local enhanced testing strategy has been implemented to support ease of access to testing and identification of infection in both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals
  • In-depth epidemiological review will be undertaken together with an assessment as to whether or not there is a need to reintroduce NPIs above those that are voluntary (social distancing, mask wearing in high risk situations, frequent hand washing, meeting outdoors where possible etc.)
  • Should the community’s voluntary response as defined be insufficient to address the rising incidence, application should be made to WG for further local powers to be made available
  • In supporting the vulnerable the IMT will work with closed settings to ensure that they are fully engaged with and delivering the agreed testing policy to minimise introduction of infection
  • The IMT will consider and support the role of daily testing for staff in frontline services as an enabler to return to work and maintain critical services
  • Enforcement officers are increasingly finding that sectors commonly associated with non-compliance are the vectors for spread of infection. Interventions are targeted at these sectors
  • Action is ongoing locally to support uptake of the vaccine in those who were not receptive to receiving it on first offer
Very high
  • The uptake of 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine is above 85% for priority groups 1-9, increasing incidence of infection in the vaccination population may indicate evidence of waning immunity
  • The 7 day rolling incidence is increasing in all age groups
  • There is exponential growth of cases with widespread introductions into closed settings. TTP prioritising the most vulnerable, backward tracing of cases is no longer feasible
  • Epidemiological review shows random spread of the virus across the area without either a comprehensive understanding of what is driving transmission and evidence that the national and local mitigating measures are no longer proving effective
  • Joint Enforcement Teams are overwhelmed
  • Deaths are continuing to increase
  • There is significant impact on frontline services due to the number of staff self-isolating
  • Education is severely impacted by cases and clusters
  • Health and social care is under significant pressure 
  • Genomics provides no intelligence that a new variant of interest or concern is a driver for the rising incidence of infection
  • Symptomatic individuals will continue to self-isolate and have a test, responding appropriately to the result. Asymptomatic testing of various cohorts is being undertaken as per guidance
  • There is an understanding at the IMT that community transmission is occurring at such a pace that only measures that will significantly reduce person to person contact will break chains of transmission
  • Enhanced communication, testing and vaccination is in place including testing as an enabler to maintain front line health and social care and blue light services
  • A review of the NPIs and actions to date suggest that there is nothing more that can be done with local powers that will reduce person to person spread
  • Emerging evidence from enforcement officers that the Restriction Regulations requirements are insufficient
  • The IMT may request specific measures are introduced to support their requirement of limiting person to person contact
  • Representation will be made to Welsh Government recommending further mitigating actions. Welsh Government will consider whether mitigating actions are appropriate for the local authority or health board. In considering the request Welsh Government will take into account a range of intelligence including the prevalence of infection across Wales, the impact that COVID-19 is having on the health and social care system, the contribution that vaccines are making in weakening the link between infection and mortality and morbidity in order to determine whether a local, regional or national approach is appropriate
Table 2: Risk framework for post-16 providers
Level of overall risk Low risk Moderate risk High risk Very high risk
Reducing close interactions

Implement arrangements aimed at reducing close interactions (within 2m) as far as is reasonable, based on risk assessment.

Colleges should ensure reasonable measures are taken in public areas to minimise the risk of exposure to and spread of coronavirus which may include reasonable measures to encourage individuals to maintain 2m physical distancing, one way systems, and signage. In other areas the risk assessment should consider physical distancing as a measure to mitigate risk.

Implement arrangements aimed at reducing close interactions (within 2m). This may include, for example, not holding large indoor gatherings and events; one way systems; consistent seating plans; floor signage or using outdoor spaces where possible.

Reduce close interactions between learners to the lowest practical level. This may include the measures set out at the High risk level as well as a combination of in person and remote learning to reduce numbers on site.

For the majority of learners this will mean in person learning should continue.

Colleges may want to consider a contact group model in operation for teaching and learning where appropriate or where 2m physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Colleges remain open for on campus teaching and learning activity.

Colleges may need to consider priority in person learning, which may include provision for learners with additional learning needs, to support learner well-being, practical placements or courses, qualification based or professional body requirements or where students would be at risk of not completing their course of study or qualification for the academic year.

Testing for staff and learners

Little or no regular LFD testing. Testing to enable contacts (unvaccinated adults aged 18 or over) of confirmed positive cases to remain in face-to-face learning.

Targeted / focused testing used where there are local risks identified by IMT.

Testing to enable contacts (unvaccinated adults aged 18 or over) of confirmed positives to remain in face-to-face learning.

Three times a week LFD testing encouraged for staff and learners to help identify and isolate asymptomatic cases as soon as possible. Individuals to follow the relevant self-isolation guidance. Three times a week LFD testing available and strongly encouraged for staff and learners to help identify and isolate asymptomatic cases as soon as possible. Individuals to follow the relevant self-isolation guidance.
Face coverings

Face coverings are not routinely recommended for staff and learners, but may be worn by individuals anywhere on site should they wish to do so.

Face coverings should be worn in all indoor public areas to which the public have or are permitted access (eg reception areas, facilities open to the general public).

Face coverings are recommended on dedicated transport.

Face coverings are not routinely recommended for staff and learners, but may be worn by individuals anywhere on-site, and in particular when moving around indoor communal areas where 2m distancing cannot be maintained.

Face coverings should be worn in all indoor public areas to which the public have or are permitted access (eg reception areas, facilities open to the general public).

Face coverings are recommended on dedicated transport.

Face coverings should be worn in indoor communal areas where social distance cannot be maintained except in classrooms/workshops.

Face coverings should be worn in all indoor public areas to which the public have or are permitted access (eg reception areas, facilities open to the general public).

Face coverings should be worn on dedicated transport.

Face coverings should be worn in all indoor areas on all provider sites where social distance cannot be maintained, including in classrooms/workshops.

Face coverings should be worn in all indoor public areas to which the public have or are permitted access (e.g. reception areas, facilities open to the general public).

Face coverings should be worn on dedicated transport.

Sports and physical wellbeing Sports and fitness activities can take place within colleges and other learning provider settings, including training and competitions within colleges, subject to risk assessments and following any guidance published by the relevant National Governing Body for the sport in question. Sports and fitness activities should only take place outdoors and within contact groups, or with social distancing where participants are from more than one contact group, subject to risk assessments and following guidance from the relevant National Governing Body for the sport in question. Sports and fitness activities should only take place where essential to achievement of a qualification, subject to risk assessments and following guidance from the relevant National Governing Body for the sport in question.
Sports competitions

Sports fixtures across different contact groups within a college or between different colleges can take place, subject to risk assessments and following any guidance published by the relevant National Governing Body for the sport in question.

Colleges should continue to use the test to play policy as agreed with Colegau Cymru asking players and coaching staff to lateral flow before they attend a game.

 

Colleges should prioritise any inter-college sports fixtures that are essential activity which may include activity which is part of regional or national  Governing Body led competitions. Colleges must carry out risk assessments and follow any guidance published by the relevant National Governing Body for the sport in question.

All other inter-college and mixed college competitions should be discouraged.

Colleges should continue to use the test to play policy as agreed with Colegau Cymru asking players and coaching staff to test regularly with a lateral flow before they attend training or a sporting fixture.

Spectators are not to attend and colleges will need to comply with the gatherings rules set out at the appropriate alert level.

Workplace visits by apprenticeship assessors Routine workplace visits can take place subject to workplace health and safety checks. Workplace visits can only take place subject to workplace health and safety checks for essential assessment purposes.
Work placements (FE and traineeship learners) Can take place in line with industry guidance for the appropriate sector, and subject to workplace health and safety checks.

Can take place, subject to coronavirus restrictions affecting the ability of businesses to be open and workplace health and safety checks, where a placement is an integral part of a course and is essential to completing a qualification.

New work placements can start for traineeship learners, but are subject to risk assessments, trainee inductions and any other necessary mitigations to reduce risk.

Contact group options

To support colleges reduce close interactions a contact group model may be of assistance, however contact groups may not be possible for all activity and should be considered where appropriate. 

Room capacity may affect the number of students who can be present in any room/space at the same time. However, colleges must continue to carry out specific coronavirus risk assessments for their buildings and activities, building on their learning to date and practices they have already developed during the pandemic. 

To support Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing activity colleges will need to determine a process to retain and supply contact information for contact groups, groups of 6 or individuals (as the case may be) for each session and retain these in line with guidance

Groups of up to 30

A contact group may consist of up to 30 students and should be fixed and not fluctuate in terms of the number within it, without good reason. 

A fixed contact group means the same group, up to a maximum of 30 students, must be allocated for the teaching group. 

Across a programme, students may be members of multiple contact groups but this should be kept to a minimum. 

Groups of 6

Following the rule of 6, students may be allocated to groups of 6 seated with 2m between each group of 6. 

Groups of 6 can vary from session to session but should remain fixed for the duration of the session. 

What happens if there is a case of COVID-19 in your college? 

If a college becomes aware of one isolated confirmed case of Covid-19 in any setting this is not evidence of transmission within a college, particularly when community transmission is very high.

TTP will lead on identifying the close contacts of staff and learners who have tested positive, where possible. College learners are encouraged to undertake LFD tests three times a week, have been offered the vaccination, are eligible for the booster, are able to wear a face covering and are generally more likely to be able to identify and provide details of their close contacts and provide this information to TTP if required.

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