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Changes to learning and teaching in schools from 29 June 2020.

First published:
10 June 2020
Last updated:

Contents

When will schools in Wales open for more pupils?

Schools will start the next phase of opening on 29 June.

How will school re-opening work?

In each school there will be a phased approach. Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.

There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience and getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.

Detailed guidance for schools has been published which provides information on managing facilities and logistical arrangements, including buildings, resources, cleaning and transport. We have also published guidance for childcare services and information for further education providers.

Schools will make arrangements according to their own circumstances and they will inform parents about the individual arrangements for their pupils.

Why have you made this decision now?

Since the decision to close schools for statutory provision, our understanding of the virus and its longer-term impacts has continued to develop. We know that we are going to have to live with it for some time and that it will remain our biggest challenge for the foreseeable future.

What we are doing is creating the opportunity for children to Check in, Catch Up and Prepare before the start of September. By doing this now it will give children vital contact time before the summer holiday which will have important social, learning and attainment gap benefits. This will help prepare learners for contact time after the summer holidays and will also allow schools to test operations before the autumn term.

For parents and teachers too this is an important opportunity to experience and be confident of the safety measures in place. The safety of staff and learners is paramount. By the 29 June there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect.

A paper from the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, representing the latest understanding of the virus with respect to children and education is available.

I’m a parent or guardian who is shielding. Do I send my child back to school at the end of June?

If you are a shielding parent or guardian, there is no expectation to send your child / children back to school at the end of June. Parents won’t be fined for keeping their child / children at home. These children will continue to be supported by their schools in different ways but families should keep in communication with the school so they understand why they are not attending.

My child is shielding. Will they have to return to school at the end of June?

If your child is shielding they should not return to school at the end of June or use the opportunity of these check-in sessions. Shielded children will continue to be supported by their schools in different ways.

I am a teacher and live in a household with someone who is shielding. Am I expected to return to school?

If you live in a household with someone who is shielding, but you are not shielding yourself, you may return to school as long as you follow the guidance on social distancing and you and your household are able to follow the advice for those living with someone who is shielding.

Further advice on attendance is provided in the operational guidance for educational settings.

I am a learner and live in a household with someone who is shielding. Am I expected to return to school?

If you live in a household with someone who is shielding, but you are not shielding yourself, you may return to school as long as you follow the guidance on social distancing and you and your household are able to follow the advice for those living with someone who is shielding. In practice this may be difficult for some families, including those with younger children. In those instances, we do not expect those children to attend and they should be supported to learn at home. Further advice on attendance is provided in the operational guidance for educational settings.

I’m a teacher who is shielding. Am I expected to return to work at the end of June?

You are not expected to return to work if you are shielding. You will receive a letter from the Chief Medical Officer by 15 June that can be can be shared with your employer as proof that you will not be able to go to work while you are shielding.

Will clinically vulnerable staff or learners be expected to return to school?

In the context of COVID-19, Clinically Vulnerable individuals are at greater than average risk from COVID-19.  This category includes people aged over 70, those who are pregnant and those who have a range of chronic health conditions.  Pregnant women are specifically advised to work from home after 28 weeks’ gestation.

People in this category can go out to work but they should work from home if possible. If staff or learners do attend, extra care must be taken to ensure vulnerable individuals, and those around them adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. In the case of learners, we would only expect these to attend where parents/carers consent to this.

Further advice on attendance is provided in the operational guidance for educational settings.

The safety of staff and learners is paramount. Teachers should seek health advice and get in touch with their head if they need further support.

Will parents be fined if they do not send their child to school?

During this time parents won’t be fined for keeping their child / children at home. These children will continue to be supported by their schools in different ways. 

Will all education staff and learners be tested for COVID-19?

Please see our guidance on testing for education settings.

All symptomatic members of the public, including critical workers and children, now able to book tests for coronavirus.

Will all education staff be eligible for the antibody test?

Education staff working in hub settings are a priority group in the new antibody testing programme. In the first instance we are testing a sample of staff that have worked in the education hubs, supporting the children of key workers and vulnerable children during the pandemic. This is to help us better understand how many people may have had COVID-19 and develop our understanding of the disease further, as the science in relation to immunity is unknown. The sample of staff who have been prioritised for antibody testing will have been/will be contacted by their local health board in relation to this.  

Until the scientists learn more, a positive antibody test result only tells you that you’ve probably had the virus. It will not mean that you’re immune, or that you cannot pass on the virus to others. It also does not mean that you are exempt from and are able to ignore the latest Government advice on social distancing and other interventions to control the spread of the virus.

Please see our guidance on testing for education settings.

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.

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

Will teachers who cannot attend work over the summer term still be paid?

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

What do you mean by ‘catch-up’?

By ‘catch-up’ we mean giving every pupil a chance to check in with their teachers to assess their wellbeing and what support is required. Teachers can provide support to pupils on core skills, blending online and personalised learning, in smaller classes with dedicated support.

We do not expect schools to be running a full catch-up programme in these circumstances and in this timeframe.

Are school staff expected to be providing face to face and remote learning from 29 June?

As we move into this next phase there will be a blended learning approach to support learners both in and outside of school. Guidance on learning over the summer term has been published to support schools.

Can family or grandparents provide childcare?

From Monday 6 July two households can join together to form an extended household. Where families form an extended household they can enter each other’s homes, stay overnight and do not need to maintain social distancing. This will help with the provision of informal childcare.

Under the current social distancing measures family members from outside extended households must maintain a 2 metre distance. The situation is reviewed every 3 weeks, and any changes to this guidance will be communicated as and when appropriate.

Will transport to school be available?

Consideration should be given to the latest transport guidance. Where possible, parents and carers should travel with their children to and from school, ideally on foot, or by bike, scooter or any other means of active travel. Social distancing should be maintained on the journey to and from school. People of different households should only travel together if social distancing is possible.

In any school transport, priority should be given to those who are unable to attend without it. Learners should avoid using public transport where possible.

Our operational guidance includes information on managing facilities and logistical arrangements including transport to and from school.

Further information on school transport services is available.

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 expect schools to take pragmatic approaches about the wearing of school uniform at this time. As a guide we would suggest the main thing is to wear something that is comfortable and easily washable.

Will schools be open over the summer break for the care of children of critical workers and vulnerable children?

There is no expectation that schools continue hubs provision during the summer holidays. Local authorities may make alternative provision but it is not expected that this will be managed by school staff.

How should schools and settings record attendance in Wales from 29 June?

From 29 June schools and education settings should keep a record of attendance and families should notify their setting if their child is unable to attend. This will help schools, settings and local authorities plan and understand any barriers to learners returning to school, and identify any further support needed. 

We do not expect families to send children to school against their will and parents will not be fined if their child does not attend.  

We have published guidance for schools and settings on how to record attendance and the codes that will be applicable during this time.  

When will we have more information on what will happen from September?

We continue to follow the latest scientific advice and guidance, and ensuring the health and safety of all our school staff and learners is paramount. Planning for September is already underway and a key part of the decision to increase capacity in schools from 29 June is to enable schools and learners to test and experience the new operations and use it to inform next steps for the autumn term. Schools, parents and carers will be kept informed of updates.

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.

Will school meals be available for children and young people who are in school?

Schools will determine arrangements for school meals depending on the timetable that they develop for their learners and they will communicate these arrangements to parents/carers. Depending on the timetable, schools and settings may judge that lunch does not need to be provided or that learners should bring their own lunches to minimise the risk of transmission. Further advice for schools is provided in the operational guidance.

If school staff or learners travel outside of the UK at the end of August will they be quarantined on return?

If you arrive in the UK on or after 8 June 2020, you will not be allowed to leave the place you’re staying for the first 14 days you’re in the UK (known as ‘self-isolating’). This is because it can take up to 14 days for coronavirus symptoms to appear.

The situation is subject to change and we recommend that staff check the latest guidance before planning any travel within or outside of the UK.

Will secondary schools be expected to hold face to face transition activities with the new year 7 cohort (current year 6)?

There is no expectation for secondary schools to undertake face to face transition activities with year 6 pupils in the summer term - this time should be used to make contact with current pupils at the school. However, secondary schools and their feeder primaries are encouraged to use alternative ways to engage with new pupils and start to plan how they will welcome learners in the autumn term.

Will face coverings be required on school transport?

Please see our advice on face coverings.

Is there guidance for governing bodies on supporting the increased operations of schools?

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

When considering the use of temporary and/or additional buildings, affordability will need to be taken into account as part of wider options appraisals.  There are no centrally identified budgets for this.

What will happen to hub provision for children of critical workers?

From 29 June the school-age children of critical workers and vulnerable children should be returning to their own schools, with local authorities moving away from the hub model they have in place at the moment.  The broad expectation is that the learners’ own school will make additional hub provision available for children who continue to need it, alongside the learning that they are entitled to for the remainder of the summer term. Decisions on how that will be managed in practice will be taken locally, based on the capacity within individual schools and the operating models local authorities and schools have in place. Schools will communicate arrangements with parents/carers.

Schools should work closely with parents/carers and local authorities to understand what is needed. Children of teaching staff may need to be accommodated at their own school or setting in order to allow staff to attend. Local authorities will work closely with schools and settings operating as hubs to manage this transition.

We will clarify the expectations beyond the summer term in due course.

Will children of critical workers accessing hub provision be able to access ‘check-in, catch-up and prepare’ sessions?

The operational guidance makes clear that those in hubs provision should be entitled to learning offered to other children alongside any hubs provision that they are accessing.  The guidance gives schools the flexibility to make decisions to keep learners, staff and families safe, but we would expect all learners to have the opportunity to access learning during this time.

What should schools do if the demand for hub provision impacts on the school’s ability to provide ‘check-in, catch-up and prepare’ sessions?

In planning for an increase in operations individual schools will need to take into account a range of factors including, availability of staff, physical space, demand from families for check in, catch up and prepare sessions, and the number of learners currently accessing Hub provision. Whilst there may be occasions when some schools will reach capacity with just the learners of critical workers, it is likely that this will be a very small number given the current levels of take up.

The expectation is that schools should be proactively approaching all families not currently accessing hub provision to establish whether they want their children to attend a check in, catch up and prepare session. Once schools have established the demand for these sessions, this information together with information taken from current Hub attendance will enable them to plan for the period from 29 June until the end of term.  Where the number of Hub learners in an individual school is impacting on their ability to provide check in, catch up and prepare sessions for all other learners the headteacher should explore with the local authority whether there is any scope to continue to provide separate provision for Hubs.

Will children accessing hub provision be able to interact with their classmates who are returning to school?

Limiting social contacts is an important part of reducing the likelihood of seeing large outbreaks of the virus.  It is important that we continue to reduce mixing between people and groups of people.  Keeping people in small, consistent groups of adults and children which remain the same throughout the week, and separate from other groups, helps to do this and avoids creating chains of transmission.  In returning to school, children should attend just one setting wherever possible, and should remain in the same small, consistent group within that setting, as far as possible.  This will help reduce the likelihood of the virus moving between groups within that one setting, or moving between groups in different settings.  

We have provided guidance to schools on how staff and learners should interact with each other to reduce the risk of transmission in the operational guidance. This includes guidance on measures schools can take to minimise the risk of transmission between groups and limit the impact of any self-isolation required due to a staff member or a learner testing positive under Test, Trace, Protect. If a child attends more than one setting, for example school and wrap-around or out of school childcare, the child should remain in the same, small group across both settings wherever possible. Mixing children from different groups, or different schools, is not consistent with the need to minimise overall levels of contact.  Parents and settings will need to discuss these risks and consider how to manage them to reduce the spread of the virus.This will mean parents, schools and settings working together and in line with the guidance provided.

It is understandable that staff, learners and parents/carers may feel apprehensive about the risks of interaction, but it is important to remember that schools will be safe through adherence to guidelines on social distancing, hygiene and self-isolation of those showing symptoms, or living with someone showing symptoms.

Will local authorities be providing foundation phase nursery during the summer term?

Decisions on whether or not to restart nursery education and reception classes, before the end of the summer term, as with all year groups are a matter for local authorities; we would expect all children in education to receive a check in.

Will learners who are educated otherwise than at school (EOTAS) return to their provision on 29 June?

The same planning for increasing operations of schools from 29 June should also be applied to learners who access EOTAS including (but not limited to) PRU’s, community settings, home tuition. The operational guidance for schools provides a broad framework for increasing operations that can be applied to other settings.

How will schools be staffed?

Local authorities and schools are best placed to determine their staffing needs, and how any additional cover is provided. As schools prepare to open to more pupils, they will know how many of their permanent members of staff will be available for work. Numbers of staff required for each school may vary, and will be based on the number of pupils attending. If schools do not have the staff available to cater for the numbers of children that are in school, they will need to consider how staffing ratios can be met. Supply needs can be met through local authorities, supply agencies, or there may be staff available from other schools who may be able to provide temporary cover. Schools and local authorities should refer to social distancing, hygiene and safety guidelines when considering any recruitment or temporary staffing solutions.

Should risk assessments be undertaken for all settings where alternative learning provision is provided?

Where learners who are educated otherwise than at school and access alternative learning provision, for example work-based learning, PRU’s, home tuition, community buildings, risk assessments should be undertaken on an individual basis to establish what might be feasible in the circumstances. For example, for a learner accessing home tuition, this might result in online one to one tuition rather than face to face depending on the circumstance.

Will pupils eligible for free school meals receive lunch in school from 29 June?

We appreciate how important free school meals are for the children and young people who receive them and we have worked closely with schools and local authorities across Wales to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals throughout the pandemic.  Pupils eligible for free school meals will continue to have these provided throughout the remainder of the summer term and through the summer holidays.

From 29 June schools will be making decisions on lunch arrangements depending on the timetable that they develop to meet their individual setting’s needs. In some cases schools and settings may judge that lunch does not need to be provided or that learners should bring their own lunches to minimise the risk of transmission. In these cases there will be alternative arrangements for pupils who would be eligible for a free school meal.  Your school and local authority will be able to provide you with details on what they are doing locally to support families in receipt of free school meals during the transition to increasing operations and throughout the summer holidays.

What are the term dates for summer and autumn half-term?

For schools opening for three weeks the last day of term for learners will be 17 July and the autumn half-term break will be one week as scheduled. For schools opening for the additional fourth week the last day of term will be 24 July and they have a two week autumn half term.

Will schools still hold INSET days?

There are 6 INSET days for the 2020/21 academic year. The 5 traditional days and a 6th National Professional Learning INSET day which should be held during the summer term 2021.

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.

Will the published list of critical workers be final, open to interpretation, and will it be reviewed?

The guidance on eligibility for ongoing provision for children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response was published on 20 March 2020.

We have set out, on a consistent basis with the UK Government, broad categories of people whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response. The list, like every other aspect of the response to COVID-19, will be kept under review.

Further guidance on provision for children of critical workers and for vulnerable children is available.

Will schools need to continue to provide written reports to parents and carers for the rest of this academic year?

It is important that headteachers continue to provide a relevant and useful report to parents (and adult pupils) on learner progress for all pupils this year, where they and teachers contributing to reports are able to do so. The Regulations will be modified to a ‘reasonable endeavours’ basis to provide flexibility in terms of format, content and timing of reports.

The provision of a ‘school leaver’s’ report will remain a statutory requirement to ensure these learners are not disadvantaged in any way. Although a report must still be provided for these learners, these will not necessarily be full reports, and the format, content and timing will subject to ‘reasonable endeavours’. For learners in Years 10 to 13, given that the calculation of grades for GCSE, AS and A Levels will use centre assessed grades and a standardisation process, we are strongly advising that reports should exclude estimated grades or mock exam results. This is in order to avoid creating either confusion or expectation about the grade a learner is subsequently awarded.

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.

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 schools be doing to protect the health and well-being of learners and staff?

As in-school operations increase, learner and staff well-being should be the primary concern. The reality of social distancing also means that learners will still spend a significant amount of time learning remotely.

When we refer to health and well-being, we are not simply talking about the physical risks of infection of COVID-19. For learners the wider physical, mental, emotional and relationship implications of social distancing, lockdown and potentially bereavement will be much more relevant.

Guidance on supporting health and well-being is available in our information to support schools and settings with increasing operations and learning over the summer term.

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.

How can parents and carers support their children with Welsh while at home?

Our framework for learning during this time, Stay Safe, Stay Learning, has dedicated support for Welsh-medium education learners whose families don’t speak Welsh. This includes advice for parents and carers on how they can support their children to use the Welsh language while at home. We will be sharing links to ideas for informal activities on Hwb and update the information, so please revisit the page regularly.

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

The ESP can also provide financial assistance through its grants service

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