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Changes to learning and teaching in schools.

First published:
14 July 2020
Last updated:

School operations

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

Schools and settings working with their local authority must follow the reasonable measures guidance, which sets out requirements on employers to carry out risk assessments. For additional guidance, see the Health & Safety Executive’s website.

At alert level zero, there will be more flexibility to determine what is required to manage risks. However, COVID-19 has not gone away, and reducing close interactions between individuals is still important in helping to control its spread. 

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 three main symptoms of COVID-19 to be aware of are:

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

If your child develops one of these symptoms they should follow the self-isolation guidance and you should apply for a coronavirus test.

Maintaining distancing is very difficult for younger children and those with learning difficulties - how can we expect to keep them from mixing with their peers and teaching staff?

Schools are expected to reduce close interactions between all individuals wherever possible. Schools should also encourage older learners to maintain distancing where possible.

All staff should adhere to the distancing measures as far as possible. However, we recognise that this may not always be possible, for example when working with younger learners.

Is there any support available for the education workforce?

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

ESP 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 close interactions between individuals?

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. This will remain the case when the implementation of the ALN Act begins, as children with statements are not transitioning to the ALN system in the first year of implementation.

In line with previous guidance we would encourage a practical and flexible approach to ensure individual needs are met. This should be considered as part of any risk assessment. For example, timetabling and scheduling one to one support over a longer cycle, in order to maintain overall levels of support whilst minimising close interactions between individuals may be appropriate.

Whilst schools are not advised to maintain contact groups from September onwards, we acknowledge that some schools may wish to tailor provision for some pupils with special educational needs as a result of specific health needs identified as part of the risk assessment process.

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 are the arrangements for free school meals?

The Welsh Government’s expectation is that school or local authority catering provision will revert to its pre-COVID arrangements, unless there are circumstances which might prevent this. 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.

Local authorities are able to claim for additional expenses incurred in providing free school meals for learners who are self-isolating via the Welsh Government’s Local Government Hardship Fund, up to a maximum of £3.90 per pupil per day. They will be expected to demonstrate that they have offset their claims against existing budgets.

The Welsh Government has also made funding available for free school meal provision during school holidays, up to the end of 2021 to 2022. Again, local authorities are able to claim from the Welsh Government’s Local Government Hardship Fund up to a maximum of £3.90 per pupil per day.

Can supervised childrens activities take place?

Yes. 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.

Can practical PE lessons take place?

Yes - schools have the flexibility to decide how physical education, sport and physical activity will be provided, working within the measures in place in the school. Outdoor activity should be prioritised wherever possible.

Can inter school sports fixtures take place?

Both indoor and outdoor regulated gatherings can now take place. This includes team sports fixtures.

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.

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

From September, this will be a local decision for schools and colleges to make, supported by public health officials and local authorities, depending on the level of risk identified locally. Your school or college will be able to inform you whether your work experience can go ahead at that time.

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

Local authorities, employers and schools must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable measures to protect staff, learners and others from COVID-19 within the setting.

It is a legal requirement that schools/settings should undertake a risk assessment, as set out in our guidance. This will enable consideration to be given to the additional risks and control measures to put in place if events such as parents evenings and open evenings are to be held.

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

Face-to-face tutoring is allowed to take place in your own home or someone else’s home.

We would expect a risk assessment to be undertaken and measures to protect those taking part to be put in place.

Tutors may also wish to consider distance learning options for students.

Who should I inform if I or my child has displayed symptoms of COVID-19? 

Children displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should remain at home, and parents are advised to arrange a test  and ensure self-isolation guidance    is adhered to. If the test comes back positive, the contact tracing system will commence for that case.

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

How should schools 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, schools should contact their local environmental health officer.

Am I required to self-isolate if I am identified as a close contact of someone with coronavirus?

All adults who have been fully vaccinated, or those under 18, are no longer required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone with coronavirus. Advice will be offered for these individuals to minimise any risks and stay safe. There may be certain circumstances where fully vaccinated and under 18s contacts may still be asked to self-isolate by the Test, Trace, Protect service – further advice will be provided in this instance.

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 able to do so. Teachers unable to attend work will be paid as normal.

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 a 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.

School contact tracing

My child has been identified as a close contact and advised to take a PCR test - can they attend school?

PCR tests will be offered to anyone who is identified as a close contact - these are not mandatory but are recommended.  If your child does not have symptoms and has not been advised to stay home/self-isolate by TTP then they can attend the school. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or has any of the COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate and not attend the school.

If my child is a contact and does not take a PCR test do they need to isolate?

If your child does not have symptoms and has not been advised to stay home/self-isolate by TTP then they can attend the school. 

Will TTP contact/interview children?

For learners who are aged under 16, TTP will interview them with a proxy (a parent or legal guardian). 

What information will TTP gather to identify contacts?

In discussion with the child (and their parent or legal guardian) TTP will gather information from positive cases on their activity and the locations they have visited, including social settings, sports and after school clubs and transport during their infectious period and who they may have been in contact with.   They will be asked to provide the contact details, if they know them, of any of the individuals who have been identified as close contacts.  TTP will then get in touch with these close contacts and provide appropriate instructions or advice. TTP may need to contact the school for some contact details. This is the same approach that contact tracers manage for the rest of society and they have developed expertise in supporting people to identify their close contacts.

How will contact tracing work for primary school age children and those with learning difficulties?

Individual assessment of all contacts will not be possible with younger children who will be less able to reliably report who they have been in contact with.  Therefore the focus of contact tracing for children in primary schools will be on close friendship groups and any community contacts that the parent or guardian is aware of.

Individual assessment of all contacts may also be difficult with children who have learning difficulties.  The focus of contact tracing will be on close friendship groups and any community contacts that the parent or guardian is aware of.

If an education setting is identified by the child/proxy as a location of exposure then TTP will contact the settings to advise that targeted warn and inform letters be sent to update parents and staff on the situation and what they need to do.

What is the contact tracing process for individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable?

Guidance for individuals including children, who are clinically extremely vulnerable to developing serious illness if they are exposed to coronavirus because they have a particular serious underlying health condition is available.

For children and young people who require additional support – such as children with a statement of special educational needs or who have additional learning needs or disabilities – schools and settings should continue to work with the local authority as well as with parents to decide how best to continue supporting these children to stay healthy.

What is the role of the school within the contact tracing process?

Schools are asked to support TTP teams by having core information available including staff, children and visitor’s contact details, attendance records and any knowledge of the learner’s immediate friendship group. It is TTP’s role to identify which individuals meet the definition of a close contact and who, if anyone, would be required to self-isolate. Contacts from a school will only be traced by TTP where the positive case identifies the individual as being a close contact. This is likely to be a small number of individuals who would be most at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of the contact.  However the school may be advised to take a ‘warn and inform’ approach to update parents/carers and staff on the situation and what they need to do, based on TTP advice.

What advice does warn and inform cover?

The warn and inform approach reinforces key messages about the risk to others from COVID-19 and what can be done to minimise this risk, e.g. by remaining vigilant for new symptoms, having a low threshold for seeking a test even with mild symptoms, and avoiding contact with vulnerable family and friends in the short-term (such as elderly relatives or those who are higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection). Identified contacts will also be offered PCR tests.

Teaching and learning

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

On 16 June, we published our renew and reform plan, setting out how we will target £150 million additional investment in the 2021 to 2022 financial year to support learners and practitioners as we manage our recovery from coronavirus.

The Renew and Reform plan brings together and builds on the successful interventions and initiatives deployed over the last year, including retaining and supporting more than 1,800 full-time equivalent staff recruited under the Recruit, Recover, and Raise Standards programme.

This plan confirms our commitment to learner and practitioner well-being and mental health; supporting learners to make the progress they need; and addressing the educational impacts of inequality which have been highlighted by the pandemic. Strengthening the foundations of learning as we move forward to the next steps in our national mission.

This plan sets out the framework and the funding available to enable us to work together with our partners and stakeholders to support learners and practitioners. 

We are working closely with partners to build on this plan as we move forward to the next phase of renewal and reform.

Face coverings

What is the current guidance on use of face coverings in schools?

We no longer recommend the routine use of face coverings in the classroom for staff or learners. Schools may wish to encourage their use in areas where there is likely to be more social mixing, such as in communal areas.

As part of their risk assessment process, schools will be able to decide whether the use of face coverings for staff or secondary learners is appropriate based on their own circumstances, supported by public health officials, and in discussion with local authorities.

Face coverings should continue to be worn by learners in secondary schools when travelling on dedicated school transport. This aligns with the continuing requirement for all passengers aged 11 years and over to wear face coverings on public transport. This does not apply to younger children in primary schools and in early years settings.

If anyone wishes to wear a face covering for personal reasons anywhere in the school they should be permitted to do so. This may help support their wider well-being, reduce anxiety and provide additional reassurance for some individuals alongside other mitigating measures.

Visitors to the school should check the school’s policy on use of coverings for visitors.

Vaccinations

Where can I find information on vaccinations?

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.

Further information and updates on our vaccination strategy are available.