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Changes to learning and teaching in schools.

First published:
14 July 2020
Last updated:

Return to school and college arrangements

What is the latest position regarding learners returning to school?

From 12 April primary, special and secondary schools and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) will provide onsite provision for all learners.

Outside of school, it will be important that all staff, children and their families continue to follow Welsh Government coronavirus guidance and limit their contact with others. We recognise the vital role education plays and that is why education has been prioritised in any headroom available, enabling learners to return to face-to-face learning.

If I have concerns about my child returning to school, will I be issued with a fixed penalty notice if they did not attend?

School attendance is compulsory but we recognise some families will have greater anxiety about children’s attendance at school around the risks of COVID-19. We would expect parents to discuss any concerns they have with the school to secure a full return to school at the earliest opportunity. This will help schools, settings and local authorities plan for, and understand any barriers to, learners returning to school and identify any further support needed. However, if your child did not return to school, it is the Welsh Government’s view that it would not be appropriate for a local authority or school to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) under current circumstances. The Welsh Government will monitor the situation and continue to review its position.

I am a university student, what shall I do?

Universities in Wales are able to welcome all students back to campus from 12 April, and it is our expectation that all students can return for in person blended learning for the duration of the summer term. 

Students at Welsh universities travelling to their term time accommodation in Wales should book a PCR test before they travel through the booking portal.

All students, regardless of whether they have travelled, should contact their university for guidance on how to book asymptomatic tests before travelling, on arrival to term time accommodation, and before using educational facilities on campus. Students will then be expected to test twice weekly for the first 28 days on return to campus.

School operations

What measures are in place to ensure schools are safe for learners and staff?

As part of the preparations for all learners returning to on-site provision from 12 April, schools and settings have reviewed their risk assessments to make sure that appropriate mitigations are in place to ensure the school learning environment remains as COVID-safe as possible in line with published operational guidance for schools and settings.

Following discussions with our union colleagues, local authority and further education partners, and in light of the latest TAG briefing, we have introduced a number of additional mitigating measures to provide staff and learners with an added level of assurance for their safe return to face to face teaching.

The latest advice advocates the use of face coverings by primary and secondary school staff, and secondary school learners, anywhere on the school site, including in the classroom where social distancing cannot be maintained. To support this, we have provided an additional £5 million to schools, colleges and local authorities for new face coverings and to invest further in items they need to keep their premises safe.

In addition, we have introduced twice-weekly Lateral Flow Testing for staff members and older learners.

Outside of school, it will be important that all staff, children and their families continue to follow the most recent Welsh Government coronavirus guidance and limit their contact with others. We recognise the vital role education plays and that is why education has been prioritised in any headroom available, enabling learners to return to face-to-face learning.

Can my child attend school if they have a cold?

If a child has mild cold-like symptoms they should continue to go to school, if fit to do so.

The 3 cardinal symptoms of COVID-19 to be aware of are:

  • new continuous cough
  • fever or high temperature
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste

Can children mix in their school bubbles outside school?

Contact groups (school bubbles) only apply within the school setting. Any restrictions that are placed on the general population must be adhered to when not on the school or setting premises.

Social distancing for younger children is very difficult, how can we expect to keep them from mixing with their peers and teaching staff?

We need to minimise contact between all individuals wherever possible. However, for younger learners we recognise that this can be difficult. That is why in schools the emphasis will be on forming groups of learners ensuring that those groups do not mix. For older learners it will be on social and physical distancing. 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 to minimise the number of contacts that children and adults have when inside, whilst ensuring children are kept safe and well cared for.

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 may 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.

How will you ensure the health and safety of staff working in schools?

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. We anticipate adherence to the measures outlined in the operational guidance for schools and settings will provide the necessary reassurance for staff when they 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, provide reassurance to staff about the protective measures that are in place and complete the workforce risk assessment tool.

Will personal protective equipment (PPE) be made available to education staff?

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 to be the most effective ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus. There is therefore no need to use personal protective equipment (PPE) when undertaking routine educational activities in classroom or school settings.

The operational guidance for schools and settings provides more information on the use of PPE.

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

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

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

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

Is there any support available for the education workforce?

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

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

Confidential emotional support is also available via the ESP for all education staff 24/7. Call their counselling helpline on 08000 562561 or visit the ESP website. The ESP can also provide financial assistance through its grants service.

Where staff are providing individual or group support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), can schools reconfigure the schedule of support to minimise contact between groups?

The statutory duties and obligations of local authorities and schools relating to SEN remain unchanged and in force, including the duty to arrange provision as set out in a statement.

In line with previous guidance we would encourage a practical and flexible approach to ensure individual needs are met whilst minimising contact between groups, this should be considered as part of any risk assessment. For example, timetabling and scheduling 1:1 support provision over a longer cycle, in order to maintain overall levels of support whilst minimising staff and learners’ exposure to different groups or individuals may be appropriate.

Schools should continue to consult parents and carers about specific support needs, and use their discretion flexibly in agreeing the way forward for specific learners.

What is the guidance if staff have to work across more than one contact group due to staff shortages or to cover PPA?

The Operational guidance for schools and settings currently sets out that staff responsible for our younger learners should ideally remain with set and discrete contact groups rather than interchange between different/a number of groups. Where schools identify the crossing/mixing of groups as part of their risk assessment, they should first explore whether this could be avoided by reorganising their contact groups within existing staffing levels.  If, however, as part of the school’s risk assessment they identify that the only option available to achieve this results in additional staff costs then these costs could be claimed via the Welsh Government Hardship Fund. Any such costs should be kept to a minimum.  

For older learners and staff in secondary schools we recognise there will be movement between contact groups due to the very nature of the curriculum. Maintaining social/physical distancing where possible, along with LFD testing and the use of face coverings, if they are unable to socially distance, will all help to minimise any risk of transmission. If however, as part of the school’s risk assessment they identify that the only option available to achieve this results in additional staff costs then these costs could be claimed via the Welsh Government Hardship Fund. Any such costs should be kept to a minimum.

The Operational Guidance will continue to be kept under review but for planning purposes, it can be assumed that schools can claim for these specific costs for the remainder of the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

The costs of supply staff employed by a school to cover for those who are 28 weeks or more into their pregnancy until they commence their maternity leave can be met from the Hardship Fund.

Schools can discuss accessing the hardship fund in this manner with their allocated finance officer and/or any operational challenges with senior local authority officers. School leaders will need to demonstrate that they have explored reorganising contact groups within existing staffing levels in the event of a claim for hardship funds being challenged. 

How should schools and settings deal with a medical emergency?

In the event of a medical emergency children and young people should always receive prompt and appropriate treatment. The Welsh Government has published guidance on supporting learners with healthcare needs and the use of emergency adrenaline auto-injectors in schools. This guidance provides information on how schools should respond to pupils at risk of anaphylaxis and emergency procedures. The guidance should continue to guide schools on how to respond in emergency situations throughout the pandemic.

It is to be expected that in a medical emergency people may need to be less than two metres apart and may be administering emergency medical care without personal protective equipment (PPE). The response to a medical emergency should not be delayed to put on PPE. Updated operational guidance for schools and settings is clear that it is not always possible to adhere to social distancing regulations within the school environment, particularly when working with learners who need close contact care.

The use of PPE by staff within education 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 assessment processes in place, which should be used to identify the need for the use of PPE.

In order to increase capacity to allow learners to socially distance effectively, can we use temporary buildings?

We do not consider it necessary for schools and settings to make significant adaptations to their site to enable them to welcome all learners back. However it is recognised that lunchtimes may need to be extended to ensure pupils have time to eat.

It is highly unlikely that schools will need to deliver any of their education on other sites (such as community centres and village halls) because spaces used by more than one class or group can be cleaned between use.

All buildings-related risk assessments should be prepared in consultation with the local trade unions. Following a risk assessment, some schools may determine that small adaptations to their site are required, such as additional wash basins. This will be at the discretion of individual schools and settings, based on their particular circumstances.

Can I use childcare for my school-aged children?

This is permitted, but parents are asked to carefully consider the risks. Parents will also need to discuss this with both the school and the childcare provider and be satisfied that the different settings are operating in line with the Welsh Government’s guidance for childcare settings and schools on keeping everyone safe. All the settings involved should also be aware that the child is attending more than one setting.

If your child becomes symptomatic they would need to stop attending both the school and childcare setting, and you would need to inform both settings.  If your child is asked to isolate as a close contact of a child at one setting, they should not attend the other setting either and you should inform the other setting.

Hard to clean education materials

Materials such as play-dough and sand that are very difficult to clean can present particular challenges in a school or setting.

 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 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 setting.

Is it a requirement for learners to be sat facing forward and side by side in classrooms?

Schools will need to review their risk assessments to make sure that appropriate mitigations are in place to ensure the school learning environment remains as COVID-safe as possible, in line with published guidance. Schools should make small adaptations to the classroom to support distancing where possible.

That should include seating learner’s 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.

Keeping contact groups separate on school transport is challenging for rural schools in particular. Is this an acceptable risk that can be managed?

Local authorities are expected to work with the operators with whom they contract to ensure necessary measures are put in place in line with risk assessments.  Local authorities are required to assess the travel needs of learners who are aged under 19 in their area. 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. Further information is available in the Operational Guidance for Schools and settings.

Will the school session guidance continue to be relaxed until the end of the summer?

The temporary changes to the school session time’s regulations aim to facilitate social distancing by allowing schools to stagger start, break and finish times. The changes are kept under review, taking into account restrictions in place at the time and notices are issued for a month at a time. 

What engagement has been undertaken with stakeholders regarding the operational guidance?

Welsh Government continue to have productive meetings with unions, local authorities and heads on the phased return of learners, this includes regular discussions on the operational guidance.

Face coverings

What is the current policy on face coverings in schools and settings?

If social distancing cannot be maintained, face coverings should be worn anywhere on the school estate, including in the classroom by staff at primary schools, and by staff and learners in secondary schools.

The exception is at mealtimes and when outside, unless the school risk assessment indicates that additional measures are needed, for example, 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).

Face coverings should also be worn by pupils in year 7 and above on dedicated school transport.

Visitors to the school or setting, including parents and guardians, should use a face covering when dropping off and picking up learners.

For more information, please see the schools guidance.

What about young people in special schools who may be unable to wear face coverings on school transport?

A range of specific considerations and control measures may be adopted for specific groups or in response to particular circumstances when traveling on school transport. These will be for local consideration and adoption following a risk assessment. 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 necessary. It is 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.

What kind of face coverings are recommended?

We encourage individuals to use high quality, three-layered, multi-use face coverings. To maintain maximum benefit, face coverings should be worn properly, covering the mouth and nose. They should be put on and removed using good hand hygiene. When not in use, multi-use face coverings should be stored safely, taking care when putting on and removing the covering. Reusable face coverings should be washed after every use.  

Further information is available in 'Face coverings: guidance for public', including how to care for your multi-use face covering safely.

Are face coverings recommended for use in the classroom?

If social distancing cannot be maintained, face coverings should be worn in the classroom by staff at primary schools, and by staff and learners in secondary schools.

Does the guidance on face coverings apply to all learners?  

No. The guidance is different for primary and secondary age children. The group which advises the Welsh Government on technical and scientific matters relating to COVID-19, the Technical Advisory Cell (TAC), issued ‘Advice on Face Coverings for Children and Young People (under 18) in Education settings’. The advice differentiates between primary and secondary age learners and the guidance only applies to secondary age learners.   

Technical and scientific advice has been consistently clear that there is low immediate risk to children and young people of suffering severe clinical disease from COVID-19. The risk is very low for primary school age learners and only marginally higher for older learners and young adults.

How effective are face coverings in preventing transmission of the virus?

A face covering mainly protects others from the wearer by reducing airborne transmission of COVID-19. It does not protect the wearer from infection from others.

The evidence base for how effective face coverings are has developed over time but there are still uncertainties. The most effective things everyone can do are to use good hand, respiratory and surface hygiene, reduce contact, and maintain distance. Face coverings are not a substitute for these measures, but can provide additional protection to reduce the risk where other controls cannot be or are unlikely to be maintained.

Will face coverings be provided by my school or setting?

Schools and settings are not required to provide face coverings. The Welsh Government provided an additional £5 million to local authorities in February 2021 to take additional steps to keep schools and settings as safe as possible. This may include the purchase of high quality three-layered face coverings where necessary. 

Will wearing a face covering prevent me from being identified as a contact under the ‘Test, Trace and Protect’ arrangements?

Wearing a face covering would not prevent an individual being identified as a close contact under TTP. Whilst face coverings may provide useful additional protection, they are not a replacement for more effective measures such as social distancing and good hand and respiratory hygiene.

Are face coverings compulsory in secondary schools and settings?

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales recommends, but does not mandate, the use of face coverings in secondary schools and secondary school age settings. This should be subject to a local risk assessment in the school or setting. It can provide additional protection where other physical controls such as social distancing and reduced contact cannot be or are unlikely to be maintained.

Schools are under a duty to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. The use of face coverings, by staff and learners, where relevant, can be one of those measures.

There are circumstances where face coverings are not appropriate, and due to specific individual needs and local circumstances, this is for the school or setting to discuss with the individual learner, supported by their local risk assessment.

Individuals who are exempt from wearing face coverings must be treated sensitively by staff and other learners. No learner should be excluded from accessing education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

Should face coverings be worn outside in school yards?  

Our guidance states that secondary school age learners should not wear face coverings outside in school yards and playing fields if they can maintain social distance and if there are no local school risk assessments in place which indicate that additional measures are required, namely the wearing of face coverings.

For example, a school with a relatively small outdoor space where it isn’t possible to keep contact groups separate and isn’t possible to maintain social distance, may determine in their risk assessment that additional protection measures, such as face coverings, are needed. In determining this, schools will consider the increased risk that frequent putting on and taking off of face coverings may create around contaminating hands and face if good hand hygiene and storage of the face covering is not maintained, and 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.

Should face coverings be worn on home to school transport?  

Face coverings should be worn by secondary school and college learners on home to school transport. This is in line with the requirement introduced in July 2020 for face coverings to be used by all passengers aged 11 and over on all public transport.

Are there exceptions to the advice on wearing face coverings?

We understand there are some circumstances where a learner or staff member may be exempt from, or otherwise unable to, wear a face covering. There may equally be some who wish to wear a face covering where it isn’t requested.

In such circumstances, whether somebody has a reasonable excuse, reason or legitimate exemption will not always be obvious. Schools and settings need to be mindful and respectful of such circumstances.  

Any individual who has an exemption should not be expected to provide evidence or explain their exemption.

Parents or carers and learners are encouraged to discuss any issues with schools or settings where possible to help identify any additional support needed.

Are there circumstances where it is not appropriate to wear face coverings?

There are circumstances where it is not appropriate to wear face coverings. These are varied and include:

  • at mealtimes when eating or drinking
  • when outside and social distancing
  • where learners are running around, playing active games
  • where learners may have a specific barrier to wearing a face covering including medical exemptions
  • where there may be risk of stigmatisation or bullying or adverse effects on learning, emotional engagement and communication
  • where the learner may be unable to handle a face covering as directed (which could inadvertently increase the risk of transmission, for example for young learners and those with disabilities or special educational needs)
  • due to other condition or impairment (which may not be visible)
  • where they are accompanying somebody who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • when temporarily removing a face covering to communicate with someone who relies on lip reading or facial expressions to communicate

Local risk assessment and consideration of the individual circumstances is required. The overall interests of the learner must be given priority in these circumstances. No learner should be excluded from accessing education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

How can I or my child show that we are not required to wear a face covering?  

Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be asked to give any written evidence of this. Learners and staff do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about their reason for not wearing a face covering.

Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign. A number of organisations have created cards that can be downloaded from their websites and printed, including the Welsh Government.  Carrying an exemption card is a personal choice and is not necessary in law.  

If strict social distancing is not able to be practiced in classrooms, should face coverings be used as standard? 

Our operational guidance for schools and settings sets out how classrooms can be planned to be COVID-secure with reduced contact, changes to classroom layout and adequate social distancing as far as possible. However, if social distancing cannot be maintained, face coverings should be worn in the classroom by staff in primary schools, and by staff and learners in secondary schools.

It is important to remember that any control measures taken will always need to balance a range of risks.

Why are face coverings not mandatory in the classroom?

Our guidance notes that 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. Considering the well-being of learners is critical in any considerations around whether staff or older learners wear face coverings. Where contact groups exist and other control measures are in place the marginal benefit that may be gained by the use of face coverings has to be balanced with the likely negative impact on the learning experience, including hearing and social communication.

Dealing with coronavirus

What are the main symptoms of coronavirus and when should I self-isolate?

People who are experiencing one or more of the 3 cardinal COVID-19 symptoms (new persistent cough, fever and/or loss of taste or smell) must continue to follow the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect guidance on testing and isolation and are required to self-isolate with their household whilst they await a test result.

Health Boards in Wales are also making testing available for residents who are 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.

Residents are asked to consider taking a test if they are experiencing any of these wider symptoms and they are new, persistent and/or unusual symptoms for them.

Individuals who take a test because of these other wider symptoms are not required to isolate while they await their test result. This includes children and school pupils who can continue to attend schools and childcare settings while they await a test result. However, children and adults with diarrhoea and or vomiting should remain off work or school and not attend childcare settings until they are symptom free for 48 hours even if their COVID-19 test is negative.

If individuals then receive a positive COVID-19 result, they and their household must then isolate. Households must also isolate if anyone develops any of the 3 cardinal COVID-19 symptoms while waiting for a test result taken on wider symptoms to come back.

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

Persons displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should be sent home, and advised to arrange a test and ensure self-isolation guidance is adhered to. For learners, parents should be advised to arrange a test for their child. If the test comes back positive, the contact tracing system will commence for that case. If test results are negative the individual with symptoms will not be required to complete the full self-isolation period, as long as everyone in their household with symptoms has also tested negative.

Individuals are not required to provide evidence of any negative test on return to school.

Contact tracing is done on an anonymised basis as default. Contact tracers will get in touch with contacts only if identified from a positive case and will only share who that person is, if permission is given. If the contact tracers deem other learners or staff as contacts (utilising the definition of a contact), they will request that information from the school and  contacts will be informed  that they are contacts and people who have not met the contact definition, will be required to come back to school when this process has concluded.

It is not appropriate for schools to share information on potential COVID-19 cases in the school to wider staff, pupils or parents. Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this is personal health information which is highly sensitive and shouldn’t be widely shared. From a contact tracing perspective, contact tracers actions are covered under the health specific article of GDPR, which is why they are able to request that information from sources such as schools (and also handle appropriately and sensitively in health-specific systems).

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

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

What happens if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in my child’s school or setting?

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 schools and settings follow these guidelines carefully, there is no cause for alarm.

If there are multiple cases of COVID-19 in a school then experts from across the NHS and local government will work together to prevent ongoing transmission within the school. This will involve identifying those exposed any child or staff member who is at increased risk and provide tailored infection control advice. Advice based on the assessment of each individual situation will be provided to support the school in preventing further spread.

The process will be handled sensitively and in confidence.

Further information and questions and answers about Test, Trace, Protect can be found on the Welsh Government website.

What is the Welsh Government’s view of an appropriate age for children to be left home alone to self-isolate? If it is not appropriate, what can parents do if they work?

The welfare of all children is of paramount importance. While there is no specific stipulation in law, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty against Children (NSPCC) does not advocate children aged 12 and under being left home alone. However, all children have different needs and it is an offence to leave children of any age alone if it places them at risk. Only parents will fully understand their child’s needs and if it is appropriate for them to be left home alone to self-isolate. Further advice is available.

Parental leave and time off for dependants may be requested by an employee. The terms of a request are a matter for the employer to explain and to make reasonable arrangements, which may include flexible hours or location. Given the exceptional circumstances and should parents feel it would be unsafe for their child to be left alone, the parents should speak to their employer about requesting time off for this emergency situation.

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

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

Will teachers and practitioners who need to self isolate still be paid and able to work from home?

If teachers or other staff members are unable to go to work as they have to self isolate, they should speak with their employer and agree reasonable arrangements for homeworking, if they are fit to do so. Teachers unable to attend work will be paid as normal.

I’m due to go on work experience soon as part of my school or college course, will that still go ahead?

Under the current COVID-19 restrictions, work experience will not go ahead because we need to limit travel and contact as much as possible to help control transmission of the virus. You may be able to reschedule your work experience for a later date, but at this stage it is still too soon to set firm timescales for this.

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

In addition to the £29 million that was provided to schools to boost support for learners from September 2020, a further £72 million has been made available to support learners directly as part of the response towards recovery and progression (including the continuation of Recruit, Recover, Raise Standards support for early years, vulnerable learners, and qualifications years). £15 million has also been made available to support disadvantaged learners and learners with additional learning needs.

In the summer term, we will set out a plan to support schools and settings to address the medium and long-term impacts of disruption. We will work closely with practitioners and partners to develop this. The aim of this plan will be to ensure all learners have the long-term foundations for learning and are enabled to progress, underpinned by high quality learning and teaching. We recognise that practitioners have a high level of competing demands. Creating space for them is fundamental to this approach and will be a key part of any plan.

Should schools and colleges be holding parents’ evenings and open evenings?

Due to the current social distancing measures, we recommend that traditional parents’ evenings (that is where parents come into school to meet their child’s teachers and discuss progress, with or without the child present) and face to face open evenings do not take place for the time being. Schools and colleges should still ensure they are available to discuss any concerns parents may have, and engage with parents via other means, such as by email, on the telephone or through school apps, where appropriate. Where a discussion with a parent cannot take place via these routes and face to face contact is considered necessary then appropriate measures would need to be put in place, including social distancing of 2 metres.

In relation to open evenings, schools and colleges may wish to consider holding such events virtually.

I am a private tutor. Can I provide face-to-face lessons in my home or a student’s home?

Under the current measures, face-to-face tutoring is allowed to take place in your own home or someone else’s home, with mitigations.

We would expect a risk assessment to be undertaken and measures to protect to be in place such as face coverings, ventilation and social distancing.

We continue to advise that tutors may also wish to consider distance-learning options for students.

Will schools still hold INSET days?

There are 6 INSET days for the 2020 to 2021 academic year. The 5 traditional days and a sixth National Professional Learning INSET day which should be held during the summer term 2021.

What are the expectations regarding catering operations?

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.

What are the arrangements for free school meals?

The Welsh Government has provided funding to local authorities to ensure the continued provision of free school meals for eligible children. You should contact your school, college or local authority for more information.

What are the expectations in terms of breakfast clubs?

The Welsh Government expects that breakfast clubs should operate as normal, unless it would be unreasonable for them to do so.

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.

Are schools expected to provide drinking water?

Section 5 of the Healthy Eating in Schools (Wales) Measure 2009 places a duty on local authorities to ensure that drinking water is available, free of charge, on the premises of any maintained school. This duty still applies. Pupils should be encouraged to bring their own refillable bottles of drinking water with them but, water should still be provided for those who have not done so or who require a refill. If pupils cannot access water coolers or drinking fountains, jugs of water can be provided, with a nominated member of staff pouring water for pupils who require it.

In line with the duty to provide free water, schools need to consider the best way to provide water to a pupil if they forget to bring in their own bottle, or if they need to refill their bottle. Pupils should not be required to purchase a bottle of water.

Who is responsible for decisions in relation to school uniforms?

Decisions regarding the wearing of school uniforms are a matter for individual schools' governing bodies; therefore you should contact your school if you have concerns. However, we would encourage all schools to return to their usual uniform policies. 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.

Is there help available to assist with the cost of school uniforms?

The Pupil Development Grant Access is available for looked-after children and learners eligible for free school meals to help with the cost of school uniform, sports kit, school equipment and IT equipment.

Contact your local authority for more information.

Can supervised Children’s activities take place?

Yes. Activities run for the development and well-being of children and young people, such as sports clubs and drama classes, are allowed. This applies to children under 18 (or persons who were aged under 18 on 31 August 2020). 

There is no limit on the number of children and young children that can attend these activities, but organisers should be mindful of the space available.

Organisers have a duty to take all reasonable measures to ensure that these activities take place in a way that minimises exposure to coronavirus. Therefore, they should consider the space available to allow social distancing wherever possible with children and to limit the number of children who can attend in order to achieve that.

Can inter school sports fixtures take place?

As we move to alert level 1, both indoor and outdoor regulated gatherings can now take place. This includes team sports fixtures. We recognise that it is important to allow learners to be able to participate in such events.

If you are considering organising a sports fixture, please ensure these arrangements are addressed in the relevant risk assessments and that you take all reasonable measures to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus. You should also ensure you take note of any guidance published by the relevant National Governing Body for the sport in question.

Can end of term events such as sports days and concerts take place?

In line with the relaxation of restrictions, such as the resumption of indoor and outdoor regulated gatherings, schools and settings may wish to consider organised events on the school or setting estate if they are essential for the learning experience and they cannot be held virtually.

However, we expect careful consideration to be given to the additional risks linked to these type of events.

As set out in the operational guidance for schools and settings, risk assessment processes must be followed when planning any event on the school or setting’s estate and the activity must be designed to help control, mitigate and avoid any additional risks. Schools and settings should also discuss plans for such events with their local authority officers.

As a minimum, everyone planning to attend should be reminded of the following points.

  • You must not attend if you have any of the three cardinal symptoms of COVID-19 (new persistent cough, fever and/or loss of taste or smell) and you should instead self-isolate and arrange a COVID-19 test.
  • People should maintain social distancing, including outdoors.
  • People should wash their hands regularly and follow other advice on hygiene.
  • People must self-isolate when told to do so by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect.
  • Face coverings must be worn indoors (subject to certain exemptions and exceptions).

If I have concerns about my child returning to school, will I be issued with a fixed penalty notice if they did not attend?

School attendance is compulsory but we recognise some families will have greater anxiety about children’s attendance at school around the risks of COVID-19. We would expect parents to discuss any concerns they have with the school to secure a full return to school at the earliest opportunity. This will help schools, settings and local authorities plan for, and understand any barriers to, learners returning to school and identify any further support needed. However, if your child did not return to school, it is the Welsh Government’s view that it would not be appropriate for a local authority or school to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) under current circumstances. The Welsh Government will monitor the situation and continue to review its position.

Staff and learners defined as clinically extremely vulnerable – previously known as ‘shielding’

I am a teacher or member of staff who was shielding. Am I expected to return to school?

The advice to those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable has changed. The advice for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to shield paused on 31 March and 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 and use the COVID-19 Workforce Risk Assessment Tool for education settings which should be used to facilitate any discussions.

I am a learner who was shielding. Am I expected to return to school?

The advice to those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable has changed. 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. Learners should continue to closely follow the guidance on social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene.

Parents and guardians will be aware of the child’s situation and can inform the school. Confirmation from a doctor is not required. 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.

Staff who are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable should follow the published guidance.

I am a member of staff classed as at ‘increased risk’ of contracting the virus, what are my options regarding attending work?

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.

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 the operational guidance for schools and settings. 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 two metres of others.

As a further mitigating measure face coverings should be worn anywhere on the school estate including in the classroom if social distancing cannot be maintained and does not adversely affect learners. 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.

When will school staff receive the vaccination?

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. School staff and other key workers will be immunised depending on what age and risk category they fall into. The priority list is published on the website.

I work in a special school, will I receive the vaccination?

School staff, working in special or mainstream schools, 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 along with social care workers in the vaccine roll out.

Testing

What is Test Trace Protect strategy?

The Test, Trace, Protect strategy published on 13 May was implemented across Wales from 1 June and will be a critical factor in supporting the increase in operations of schools.

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.

Please see our guidance on testing for education settings.

Will routine testing be made available?

Yes. We have introduced twice weekly testing for all staff members as well as all learners from year 7 upwards and learners on work-based apprenticeship and traineeship programmes.

It is important to highlight that the testing policy for schools in Wales should not be viewed as a ‘test to enable’ or ‘test to return’ to face to face learning, for example it is not a condition of returning to education or requirement for anyone coming on to the school site. Testing is completely voluntary.

Further information and Q&A about Test, Trace, Protect is available.

toolkit and assets for critical worker employers to communicate the Test, Trace, Protect strategy is available.

Are all school staff and learners being offered routine testing?

All those working in schools, colleges and childcare settings and learners in secondary schools and FE colleges will have access to Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs).

This enables them to undertake a test for coronavirus at home twice a week. The LFTs provide a result within 30 minutes and do not require a laboratory to process. Further information on routine testing in schools is available.

The test is for those who do not have coronavirus symptoms. If staff have coronavirus symptoms, they should self-isolate and arrange to have a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test (you can book online or by calling 119) and not use the LFD test.

Schools and colleges have been safe and secure environments throughout the pandemic. They have implemented the control measures outlined in operational guidance to reduce the risk of transmission. The testing offer will enable settings to reduce this risk further by safeguarding against the transmission of the coronavirus by those who show no symptoms.

It is important to highlight that the testing policy for schools in Wales should not be viewed as a ‘test to enable’ or ‘test to return’ to face-to-face learning, for example it is not a condition of returning to education or requirement for anyone coming on to the school site. Testing is completely voluntary.

Can schools and settings decide on which days staff should use the Lateral Flow Tests?

It is recommended that the tests are taken twice weekly, for example. two tests 3 to 4 days apart per week. It is also recommended that tests are taken before you attend the school/setting. It is for the individuals and the individual settings to make appropriate arrangements for the days on which tests are undertaken. However, it is advised that tests should be taken on a fixed schedule, for example the same days and times each week.

How reliable are LFD tests?

LFD tests have been widely and successfully used to detect COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals. The speed and convenience of LFD tests supports detection of the virus in asymptomatic individuals who would not otherwise be tested. Extensive clinical evaluation has been carried out on the lateral flow tests. Evaluations from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show these tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community for screening and surveillance purposes.  

Are supply staff agencies obliged to provide LFD test results for their staff?

It is important to highlight that the testing policy for schools in Wales should not be viewed as a ‘test to enable’ or ‘test to return’ to face to face learning, it is not a condition of returning to education or requirement for anyone coming on to the school site. Testing is completely voluntary.

Are there learner-friendly resources available explaining how to use the LFD tests?

Yes. These can be accessed via the Testing Offer Asset Banks.

Vaccinations

Why have those working in specialist schools been offered their first dose of the vaccine, whilst some of those working in specialist units attached to mainstream schools have not?

School staff, working in special or mainstream schools, 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 along with social care workers in the vaccine roll out. If you are providing intimate personal care for some of our most vulnerable learners with complex medical needs and have not been offered the first dose of your vaccination, please contact your local authority.

If someone has received two doses of the vaccination, do they still need to self-isolate if a member of their household has symptoms?

Yes. Although the vaccine provides additional protection, it does not make you immune to carrying the virus and in turn spreading it. We do not yet know enough about whether it will stop you from catching and passing on the virus to others, so current self-isolation guidance would need to be followed in this situation.

Teaching and learning

What plans are being considered to help learners 'catch up'?

We are exploring what additional measures we can take to address lost learning time and we are working closely with our education partners to develop these measures. We will in due course publish a Learning Recovery Plan to set these out in detail.  A number of options are currently under consideration. Many of the options being considered are to ensure that schools are also able to adhere to school operations.

Is the announcement of additional funding made on 8 March on top of the funding already announced?

Yes. The additional £72 million funding that has been announced will include the continuation of the Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards Programme into the next academic year, extra learning resources and support for foundation phase learners in schools and childcare settings that provide early education.

Can practical PE lessons to take place?

Yes - schools have the flexibility to decide how physical education, sport and physical activity will be provided while following the measures in your system of controls. This includes keeping pupils in consistent groups and cleaning sports equipment thoroughly between each use by different individual groups. Outdoor activity should be prioritised wherever possible.

Further information can be found at in sport, recreation and leisure: guidance for a safe return.

What are the longer-term plans to help deal with the attainment and learning gap due to the pandemic?

We are exploring what additional measures we can take to address lost learning time and are working closely with our education partners to develop these measures. We will in due course publish a Learning Recovery Plan to set these out in detail. The Learning Recovery Plan will set out both our long-term plans to support all learners to recover from the pandemic, and will consider how we can support those specific groups, such as those in exam years, that have been most affected by the disruption. As part of this plan, we will consider actions and support for learner and teacher well-being, as we recognise that these are key enablers of learning and are fundamental to recovery.

Educational visits

Can educational day visits take place?

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 in the operational guidance for schools and settings, 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 are still required, for example 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 wishing to undertake domestic day educational visits should continue to undertake the usual risk assessment processes when planning 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 operational guidance for schools and settings.

Can educational residential visits take place?

We continue to advise against domestic residential educational visits. The exception to this is small group visits using single occupancy accommodation, such as Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, which are required to gain an award or qualification. Guidance for the relevant award or qualification should be followed.

All visitor accommodation in Wales can re-open fully from 17 May, but may only currently be used by single households under current restrictions.

Can international residential educational visits take place?

We continue to advise against international residential educational visits. Updated guidance on international travel, including the requirement for quarantine upon return to the UK, is available.