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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 during the 2020 to 2021 spring term?

The Minister for Education announced on 5 February that schools will begin a phased return for foundation phase learners, from 22 February. We have also announced that from 15 March, all remaining primary school children will be able to be back learning onsite. From that date, we will also enable learners in qualifications  years, and more learners in colleges and training to return to onsite learning. There will also be flexibility for some learners in year 10 and 12 to return. This is of course, subject to Covid-19 evidence continuing to move in the right direction.

However, we are concerned about the amount of time learners have been away from school. This is why from 15 March secondary schools will now have the flexibility to provide learners in years 7, 8 and 9 with the opportunity of a check-in focused on support for wellbeing and readiness for a return to their onsite learning after Easter.

We have also signalled that it is our intention to enable all learners to be back learning on-site after Easter.

As has been the case, children of critical workers and vulnerable learners will continue to receive face to face learning on the school site, and Special schools and PRUs will continue to remain open where possible.

Can children mix in their school bubbles outside school?

No, out of school restrictions identical to those ‘stay at home’ requirements imposed on the general population, must be applied rigorously. Contact groups ('school bubbles') only apply within the school setting.

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

Following discussions with our union colleagues and local authority and further education partners, we are introducing a number of additional measures to provide staff with an added level of assurance for their safe return to face to face teaching.

In light of the latest TAG briefing, we will be introducing an additional mitigating measure which will advocate 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 are providing 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.

As part of the preparations for foundation phase learners returning to school premises from 22 February, schools will need to review their risk assessments to ensure that appropriate mitigations are in place to ensure  the school learning environment remains as COVID-safe as possible for the increased number of learners, in line with published guidance.

Will schools remain open to vulnerable learners?

Schools and colleges will remain open for vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments. Children of critical workers can also continue to attend school.

Will special schools be open?

Special Schools and PRUs should remain open if possible to support vulnerable learners.

I am a university student, what shall I do?

Universities in Wales have already agreed a staggered start to term. Students should not return to universities for face to face learning until they are notified that they can do so.

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.

Will nurseries and childcare settings still be open?

All childcare settings can remain open, though they should continue to take account of the Welsh Government’s guidance on safe operations.

Will schools be providing hub provision for vulnerable learners and children of critical workers?

We expect individual schools to provide face to face learning for vulnerable learners and children of critical workers.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning consists of a range of approaches that can be broadly categorised as:

  • Face-to-face time with learners.
  • Online learning, for example through Hwb, recorded lessons, ‘flipped learning’ (pupils work on tasks at home before discussions in class); and live-streaming.
  • Use of textbooks and other physical resources to work at home.

The Welsh Government has published a number of documents and guidance for schools and setting on learning and supporting distance learning.

I am a private tutor, can I provide face to face lessons in my home or a students home?

Face-to-face tutoring in a home is not permitted under the alert level 4 measures in place across Wales. The guidance confirms that people must not visit other households, or meet other people they do not live with. Tutors may wish to consider distance learning options for students.

School operations

When schools are closed for face to face learning, which children and young people might attend the premises of mainstream schools by reason of their vulnerability?

The school proprietor must identify children who should attend school due to their vulnerability. The proprietor must make arrangements for a child identified as vulnerable to attend school premises for the purpose of education, on the third consecutive day of closure and any subsequent school days of the closure.  In identifying children the proprietor should take account of the following principles:

  • all children and young people must be safe, seen, heard, nurtured and developing
  • In these circumstances schools should work together with local authorities to identify those vulnerable learners who should attend school
  • the decision should consider the impact of any restrictions on the child or young person’s emotional, mental and physical health, and educational development
  • the decision should consider how risks of not attending school could be mitigated through the most appropriate support for the child or young person
  • the decision should consider those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)
  • the decision should take account of the views of the child or young person and their parents/carers, so their needs can be understood and delivered through the most appropriate support
  • children and young people should be prioritised for support according to decisions about their risks and benefits
  • parents and carers should be informed of the decision
  • the risks to children and young people should be regularly reviewed and monitored on a multi-agency basis

It is vital the school continues to actively engage with learners remotely if they are not accessing the school premises and Learning guidance is available to support schools and settings in doing so.

How do local authorities identify who is a critical worker?

Local authorities must have regard to the list when deciding who is a critical worker. In deciding who is a critical worker, local authorities will also want to reflect on types of employment and associated impacts in their area.

The law only requires one parent to be a critical worker for the obligation to make arrangements to apply.

Being included on the above list does not mean children of all workers in these categories can or will be able to continue to send their children to school. Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. However, if a parents/carers work is critical to the COVID-19 response or is in a key sector such as health and social care and the child/children cannot be kept safely at home, then priority should be given for continued education provision.

Do school staff have to physically attend school premises to provide remote learning?

Schools will have the discretion to decide, whilst ensuring adequate staffing in schools to support learners attending. However, in making arrangements for remote learning schools will need to take account of Welsh Government guidance.

What are the arrangements for travel to school?

Please see our operational guidance and specific school travel frequently asked questions on arrangements.

School uniform

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. 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.

During restrictions when non-essential retail is closed, items can still be purchased online or on a click/call and collect basis from local retailers.

However, in recognising the current alert level 4 restrictions where the message is for people to stay at home, schools can consider adopting a more flexible approach until non-essential retail reopens under alert level 3 principles.

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.

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 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.

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 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.

There is a playlist of short videos on our Education Wales YouTube channel about keeping Wales learning.

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?

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.

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.

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.

There is a playlist of short videos on our Education Wales YouTube channel about keeping Wales learning.

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.

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. You are advised that you should no longer attend work outside the home. Extremely vulnerable refers to people in Wales who have one of a very specific list of pre-existing and long-term serious health conditions. New guidance has been developed on protecting people defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable from coronavirus (COVID-19) – previously known as ‘shielding’. This includes guidance on what we mean be extremely vulnerable.

Staff who are not clinically extremely vulnerable, but live within the same household as someone who is, should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home. The advice on working from home applies equally to everyone in the UK and not just to those that live in the same household as someone that is clinically extremely vulnerable.

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. You are advised that you should no longer attend school outside the home. Extremely vulnerable refers to people in Wales who have one of a very specific list of pre-existing and long-term serious health conditions. New guidance has been developed on protecting people defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable from coronavirus (COVID-19) – previously known as ‘shielding’. This includes guidance on what we mean be extremely vulnerable.

As our knowledge of COVID-19 has grown, we now know that very few children and young people are at highest risk of severe illness due to the virus. Doctors have therefore been reviewing all children and young people who were initially identified as clinically extremely vulnerable to confirm whether they are still thought to be at highest risk. Children who are no longer on the list can attend school and the advice for this group is the same as it is to the wider population. They should continue to closely follow the guidance on social distancing and hand and respiratory hygiene. Parents/guardians will be aware of the childs situation and can inform the school. Confirmation from a doctor is not required. 

Children and young people whose parents, carers or siblings are clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to go to school.

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

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. The advice to staff in this group is the same as it is to the wider population. This group should continue to closely follow the guidance on social distancing and hand and respiratory hygiene.

Adults in this category should continue to attend work as long as the work place is COVID secure, but should continue to work from home if they can. Staff should satisfy themselves with the COVID secure measures their employer has put in place in the work place should strictly follow social and physical distancing rules. Working with 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.

Studies from the UK show that pregnant women are no more likely to get seriously unwell from coronavirus but pregnant women have been included in the list of people at increased risk as a precaution. Pregnant women should follow the latest government guidance on social distancing and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of coronavirus. If you are in your third trimester (more than 28 weeks’ pregnant) you should be particularly attentive to social distancing. Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for pregnant employees has been published. It will help you discuss with your line manager and occupational health team how best to ensure health and safety in the workplace.

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.

There is a playlist of short videos on our Education Wales YouTube channel about keeping Wales learning.

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.


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.

Will routine testing be made available?

Yes. We are introducing twice weekly testing for staff members, our older learners in upper secondary and learners on work-based Apprenticeship and Traineeship programmes. Tests will be rolled out on a phased basis prioritising those schools, settings, staff and year groups who are returning first.

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 i.e. 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.

What is the latest position on contact testing in schools and colleges in Wales?

We have had good engagement with the education sector on the testing offer for schools and colleges in Wales and there is a willingness from schools and colleges to introduce testing as soon as possible. We continue to work with schools on preparations for the introduction of testing.

Daily Contact Testing may provide an opportunity to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on in person learning, however this will only be introduced if it is safe to do so. We are led by the latest scientific advice and it is right that we consider again whether the balance of risks around the use of DCT is affected by the new variant.

We will continue to work with the UK Government Department for Health and Social Services, Public Health England, Public Health Wales and our Technical Advisory Group to understand what the latest data is telling us so that we can consider what impact this has on our approach to testing in Welsh schools and colleges.

It is important to highlight that testing on its own does not provide the solution to all the challenges relating to COVID-19. The primary countermeasures that have been put in place such as social distancing and good hand hygiene need to be used alongside any testing arrangements.

Will all school staff and learners be offered routine testing?

All those working in schools and colleges and older learners in upper secondary 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 don’t 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 corona virus 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.

Face coverings

What is the current policy on face coverings?

If during this time of limited attendance social distancing cannot be maintained, particularly with the youngest learners, face coverings should be worn anywhere on the school estate, including in the classroom by staff at primary and secondary schools and secondary school learners.

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

Face coverings: frequently asked questions

Are face coverings recommended for use in the classroom?

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. However if during this current time social distancing cannot be maintained, face coverings should be worn in the classroom by staff in all schools and secondary school learners.

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.

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.

Do face coverings have to be worn outside in school yards?

Not in Primary or Special Schools.

For secondary school pupils, face coverings should be worn outside the classroom. The exception is when they are 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 pupils in a relatively small space without separation of contact groups (such as waiting to enter school). Frequent putting on and taking off of face coverings is not recommended as this can risk contaminating hands and face.  If pupils 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.

Do face coverings have to be worn in sporting activities in school and outdoor PE lessons?

Learners should not wear face coverings when running around, playing football or other active games.

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.

Does the change in advice on face coverings apply to all school age children and young people? 

No. The Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 issued ‘Advice on Face Coverings for Children and Young People (under 18) in Education settings’. The advice differentiates between primary age and secondary age learners. The revised advice only applies to secondary schools.  

The Chief Medical Officer recommends, but does not mandate, the risk assessed use of face coverings in secondary schools in a range of settings where other physical controls cannot be or are unlikely to be maintained. Whilst classrooms are considered COVID-secure with the controls and measures in place in line with the operational guidance for schools and settings , other communal areas for secondary school age children where such controls cannot be maintained to the same degree, may be recommended to use face coverings.   

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 during this current time social distancing cannot be maintained, face coverings should be worn in the classroom by learners in secondary schools and staff in all schools.

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

Other questions

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

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.

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 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

The ESP can also provide financial assistance through its grants service

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) continue to receive provision?

We expect individual schools to continue to provide face to face learning for vulnerable learners and children of critical workers.

Special Schools and PRUs are able to remain open to support vulnerable learners if possible.

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.

Will breakfast and after school provision be provided when schools return?

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.

As of February 2021, the Welsh Government PDG Access grant funding will also cover the purchase of a laptop or tablet (this should only be used in a limited situation, where a school is unable to loan equipment to the family). The changes to the grant will provide further help with remote learning to our most disadvantaged families. Please contact your school to discuss availability of IT equipment. For further information on the PDG Access grant contact your local authority. 

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.

There is a playlist of short videos on our Education Wales YouTube channel about keeping Wales 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 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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.