Changes to learning and teaching in schools from September.
What are the plans for schools from September?
On the 9 July the Minister for Education confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September. A copy of the Minister’s announcement can be accessed.
There is a playlist of short videos on our Education Wales YouTube channel about keeping Wales learning.
What is the basis for this decision?
The Welsh Technical Advisory Group, which provides scientific and technical advice to Government during emergencies, recommends that schools “plan to open in September with 100% of pupils physically present on school sites, subject to a continuing, steady decline in the presence of COVID-19 in the community”. The paper which includes this advice has been published and can be accessed.
Can educational visits resume from September?
The Welsh Government, in line with the UK Government’s advice, continues to advise against all overseas education trips for children under 18 organised by educational settings. We will keep this under review.
Non-overnight domestic educational visits can resume in the autumn term. These should be done in adherence with protective measures, such as COVID secure measures in places at the destination. Visits should be thoroughly risk assessed to ensure they are done safely. As part of the risk assessment, schools will need to consider what control measures need to be used and ensure they have taken into account wider advice on visiting indoor and outdoor venues. Schools will want to consider the needs of all learners taking part in an educational visit, including their ability to comply with COVID safety measures at the venue. They should also be mindful of the safety of supervising staff. Schools will also need to have contingencies in place should there be changes to national (Wales), regional or local coronavirus measures.
What are the arrangements for travel to school from September?
Please see our operational guidance and specific school travel frequently asked questions on arrangements from September.
Decisions regarding the wearing of school uniforms are a matter for individual schools' governing bodies and you should contact your school if you have concerns. However, we would encourage all schools to return to their usual uniform policies in the autumn term. 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.
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.
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 and ensuring separation of those groups, and 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 groups rather than interchange between different or a number of groups. All staff should adhere to the social/physical distancing measures as far as possible with younger learners, but should adhere to those measures in their interactions with older learners, other staff members and visitors to the school.
There is a playlist of short videos on our Education Wales YouTube channel about keeping Wales learning.
How will you ensure the health and safety of staff working in schools?
The health and wellbeing of our learners and our education workforce is at the forefront of any planned increase in operation for our schools. To this end, working with the WLGA and Unions representing school support staff we have provided additional reassurances around risk assessments; the increased demand for cleaning staff; the antibody testing and Test, Trace, Protect programme in a joint statement.
There is a playlist of short videos on our Education Wales YouTube channel about keeping Wales learning.
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/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 are making £30 million available to local authorities to meet the pressures arising from dealing with COVID-19; where necessary, this can be used to support the purchase of hygiene products.
We understand that that some local authorities still run a procurement service, which schools may be obliged to use in the first instance. However, 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.
Should schools and colleges be holding parents’ evenings and open evenings this autumn term?
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 evening schools and colleges may wish to consider holding such events virtually.
Can children take part in school nativity plays/Christmas concerts and if so, can parents and carers attend to watch them?
Current school guidance emphasise the need to form and keep the same consistent group of children and as such it would be acceptable for nativity plays/Christmas concerts to take place within a bubble.
While children are able to take part in a nativity play or Christmas concert within current guidelines, our Protective Measures guidance is clear that non-essential visitors should not be allowed to enter settings. This means it would not be permissible for parents/carers to form an audience to watch the events. A gathering of parents/carers would also contravene the coronavirus regulations updated on 9 November which specify that no more than four people can meet indoors.
Schools may wish to consider the virtual streaming of such events.
Will schools resume catering operations?
Not all schools will be able to resume catering operations at the start of the autumn term. There are various reasons why this might be, including the health and safety of pupils and staff. Some schools will be able to offer a full menu with hot meals with effect from the start of term whilst others will only be able to offer a more limited choice. Even if a school does not resume catering operations at all, the duty to provide a free school meal for eligible pupils (and those who are transitionally protected) will still apply.
The vast majority of schools will have already written to parents informing them of their catering arrangements during the new term. If you are a parent or guardian and you have not heard from your child’s school it is recommended that you get in touch with them in order to find out what is available. Where catering facilities are not resuming, some schools are asking parents to provide their child with a packed lunch.
Will learners who are in receipt of free school meals be able to receive them when learners return to school in the autumn term?
Legal duties with regard to the provision of free school meals will apply when schools re-open for all learners in September. The Welsh Government expects that schools will continue to provide lunch for learners eligible for free school meals (including those who are transitionally protected). Even if, during the first two weeks of the autumn term, a school has decided that a learner who is in receipt of free school meals will not be expected to attend school on a particular day because of a staggered start to the term, or if school catering facilities will not reopen, the duty to provide that learner with a free school meal must be met.
Is social distancing in classrooms required?
There are no limits set on the number of children per classroom.
The overarching principle set out in our operational guidance still stands, which is to reduce the number of contacts between learners and staff and to social distance as far as practicable.
Provision of drinking water in schools
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 re-fill. 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.
Shielding and vulnerable learners and teachers
I am a teacher or member of staff who was shielding. Am I expected to return to school?
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Wales took the decision to pause his advice for extremely vulnerable individuals to shield after 16 August, because the infection rate in Wales is very low. Staff who were previously shielding will be able to return to work or school in the autumn term if the environments are risk assessed to be “COVID secure” (has taken reasonable measures to minimise risk to employees and learners) although adults are advised to continue to work from home if possible. Staff who have been shielding should talk to their employer as early as possible about how they would be kept safe. Staff who do return to the school setting should strictly follow the social distancing measures in addition to what other safety measures are put in place for their return by their employer. There is advice on the Welsh Government website.
I am a learner who was shielding. Am I expected to return to school?
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Wales took the decision to pause his advice for extremely vulnerable individuals to shield after 16 August, because the infection rate in Wales is very low. Learners who were previously shielding will be able to return to school in the autumn term if the environments are risk assessed to be “COVID secure”(has taken reasonable measures to minimise risk to employees and learners). The CMOs from across the UK recently accepted the guidance published by Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in relation to children and shielding. According to the RCPCH guidance, the majority of children currently on the Shielding Patients List (SPL) no longer need to shield. Over the summer paediatricians and GPs will be reviewing the records of children who have been shielding to assess whether they need to remain on the SPL. Once a child is removed from the SPL because they do not need to shield, they can behave in the same way as any other child in the school or setting.
I am a member of staff classed as at ‘increased risk’ of contracting the virus, what are my options regarding returning to school?
In the context of COVID-19 individuals at 'increased risk' are at a greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This category includes people aged over 70, those who are pregnant and those who have a range of chronic health conditions. Staff in this group may be concerned and wish to know what the lifting of lockdown restrictions means to them. The advice to staff in this group is the same as it is to the wider population. As we continue to ease restrictions however, this group should continue to closely follow the guidance on social distancing and hand and respiratory hygiene.
Pregnant women after 28 weeks are specifically advised to work from home or in a non-public facing role in a COVID secure workplace where 2m physical distancing can be maintained at all times. The Royal College of Obstetric Gynaecologists (RCOG) have updated their advice, RCOG “clinical advice for pregnant women on the risk and potential implications of being severely affected by COVID-19, particularly affecting those who are at 28 weeks’ gestation or above, still stands”
As the advice to shield is being paused adults in this category can return to work as long as the work place is COVID secure, but should continue to work from home if they can. Those that do choose to return to work should satisfy themselves with the COVID secure measures their employer has put in place in the work place and when the return to the school setting they should strictly follow social and physical distancing rules. Working ith the local authority every school should continue to carry out risk assessments and are encouraged to use the All Wales COVID-19 workforce risk assessment tool and put in place controls to minimise those risks, such as the need for frequent and thorough hand washing, surface hygiene and cleaning and one-way systems we have seen work well at the end of the summer term. If anyone has concerns they should discuss these with their employer, occupational health and their GP.
Dealing with coronavirus
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 measures will schools and settings be taking to reduce the transmission of the virus?
Although it is not possible to ensure a totally risk-free environment, the Welsh Government’s updated operational guidance includes comprehensive information on the protective measures schools should take to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus.
Will all education staff and learners be tested for COVID-19?
The Minister for Health and Social Services issued a statement on 29 September setting out the prioritisation for testing in Wales which reflects the priorities set out in our testing strategy.
It’s important to note that only school staff with symptoms of the coronavirus need to take a test. We have provided guidance on testing for education settings which includes the steps they need to take should a member of staff or pupil display symptoms. Every school in Wales has been provided with testing kits. The rapid deployment of testing by NHS Wales will also support individual schools, where needed.
All symptomatic members of the public, including critical workers and children, are now able to book tests for coronavirus. We have significantly expanded testing and are providing £32 million to increase testing capacity in Wales, which includes extending our regional laboratories to 24-hour operation and six new ‘hot labs’ at hospitals across Wales. This is alongside access to the wider UK Lighthouse Lab network which supports public and key worker testing.
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.
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.
What has changed to the policy on face coverings?
In secondary schools, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils in all areas outside of the classroom. Face coverings should also be worn by pupils in year 7 and above on dedicated school transport.
Visitors to the school/setting should use a face covering, including parents when dropping off and picking up learners.
What type of face covering should be used?
Face coverings should be made up of three layers as set out by the World Health Organisation but do not need to be medical-grade face masks.
Are face coverings recommended for use in the classroom?
In classrooms 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. Face coverings are therefore not recommended for use in the classroom in line with the operational guidance for schools and settings from the autumn.
How effective are face coverings in preventing transmission of the virus?
A face covering principally acts to protect others by reducing airborne transmission of COVID-19. It does not protect the wearer from infection from others.
The key advice remains that the most important controls continue to be good hand and surface hygiene, reducing contact and maintaining distance. Face coverings are not a substitute for these measures, but can be an additional measure to reduce risk where existing controls cannot be or are unlikely to be maintained.
As face coverings are required to be worn on public transport, will it be mandatory to wear face coverings on home to school transport?
Face coverings should be worn by secondary school and college learners on home to school transport.
So if I have to wear a face covering outside the classroom, who will supply them?
The Minister for Education announced on 7 September that the Welsh Government has made more than £2.3 million available to provide face coverings to all pupils of secondary school age or in further education settings. Please contact your school or local authority for further information.
How can I show that I am not required to wear a face covering?
There are some circumstances where a pupil or staff member may not be able to wear a face covering. Whether somebody has a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering will not always be obvious. Schools will need to be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people may be less able to wear face coverings and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.
Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this. Pupils 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.
How should I store and care for my reusable face covering?
Information on how to store and care for your reusable face covering is available.
In undertaking local risk assessments, schools and settings should consider the safe use and storage of face coverings.
Should visitors to schools and settings and parents be required to wear face coverings on school premises?
Yes, visitors to the school setting should use a face covering, including parents when dropping off and picking up learners.
Do face coverings have to be worn outside in school yards?
For secondary school pupils, yes face coverings should be worn outside of the classroom, that includes within the school yard at break times and lunch times and at other times of the day when pupils are congregating in those areas (e.g. waiting to enter school).
Do face coverings have to be worn in outdoor PE lessons?
No. PE lessons, whether indoors or outdoors, are an extension of the classroom and should have other mitigating measures in place.
There are concerns that some pupils may have fallen behind with their learning. What is Welsh Government doing to address this issue from September?
The Welsh Government will provide an additional £29 million to schools to boost support for learners at crucial stages in their education from September.
The equivalent of 600 extra teachers and 300 teaching assistants will be recruited throughout the next school year, targeting extra support at Years 11, 12 and 13, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable learners of all ages. This will support learners taking their A level and GCSEs in 2021 and those known to have been affected most. This targeted action is hugely important to the futures of these young people.
Professional learning resources will be provided to support the new and existing teachers, in preparation for September. Staff will be recruited on a one-year fixed term contract and are expected to move into educational roles in the following school year. The support package, provided at a school level, could include extra coaching support, personalised learning programmes and additional time and resources for exam year pupils. A range of teaching approaches will be relevant, including blended learning.
Test Trace Protect
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.
Further information and Q&A about Test, Trace, Protect is available.
If school staff or learners travel outside of the UK, will they be quarantined on return?
Depending on the country you have travelled from you may be required to self-isolate for 14 days on your return to the UK.
The situation is subject to change and we recommend that you check the latest guidance before planning any travel within or outside of the UK.
Is there any support available for the education workforce?
Support is available for the education workforce through the Education Support Partnership, the charity dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of education staff.
The Education Support Partnership has been developing digital resources to provide further support to education staff during these very challenging times. These have been based on key themes of anxiety, grief and isolation.
Confidential emotional support is also available via the ESP for all education staff 24/7. Call their counselling helpline on 08000 562561 or visit educationsupport.org.uk/helpline
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.
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.
Medical emergencies in school
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 PPE. The response to a medical emergency should not be delayed to put on PPE. Updated operational guidance for schools and settings from the autumn term 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 protective personal equipment (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.
Will learners who are educated otherwise than at school (EOTAS) return to their provision in September?
It is expected that all learners in education other than at school (EOTAS) return to education provision full-time from the start of the autumn term. Local authorities as EOTAS commissioners will need to be assured that EOTAS providers have complied with health and safety law requiring them to assess risks and put in place proportionate control measures. Where a learner routinely attends more than one setting on a part-time basis, for example because they are dual registered at a mainstream school and a pupil referral unit (PRU), or other education otherwise that at school (EOTAS), setting or special school, the settings should work through the system of controls collaboratively, enabling them to address any risks identified and allowing them to jointly deliver a broad and balanced curriculum for the learner.
If I have concerns about my child returning to school, will I be issued with a fixed penalty notice if they did not attend?
We would expect parents to discuss any concerns they have about their child returning to school with the school. 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) or commence proceedings for non-attendance. The Welsh Government will monitor the situation over the first half term before reviewing its position.
Will breakfast and after school provision be provided when schools return in September?
Local authorities, working with their schools must consider resuming free breakfast schemes in primary schools and should consider resuming any other breakfast provision and after school provision whether this is provision offered by the school or run out of the school by a private provider.If a learner attends more than one setting, for example school and wrap-around or after school provision, the learner should remain in the same, small group across both settings wherever possible.
Where that is not possible, they should remain in small consistent groups within both settings. Where learners need to attend more than one setting, parents, schools and settings will need to discuss these risks and consider how to manage them.
Local authorities should support schools and providers will need to work in close partnership to fully consider how they can make before and after school provision work alongside their wider protective measures.
What if children and young people don’t have access to a laptop or tablet at home?
The Hwb digital learning platform provides access to a wide range of digital tools and content that can support distance learning. Hwb is designed to be accessed from a wide range of internet connected devices, including smart phones.
We have made up to £3 million available as part of the wider Hwb EdTech programme to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners during the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ programme, the Welsh Government is working with local authorities to support digitally excluded learners during the current pandemic.
A ‘digitally excluded’ learner is defined as a student who does not have access to an appropriate internet-connected device to participate in online learning activities from home.
Local authorities, working closely with their schools, have utilised the funding to provide digitally excluded learners with repurposed school devices and 4G MiFi connectivity where required. Replacement devices will then also be funded for schools out of the wider Hwb EdTech infrastructure programme.
Schools have identified digitally excluded learners by contacting parents and carers. Meanwhile, local authorities identified the devices which can be repurposed with up-to-date software.
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/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 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 main 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
If, however, your child does not have symptoms of COVID-19 but has other cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, they do not need to be tested and they and you do not need to self isolate. Your child can go to school if fit to do so.