Covid measures in schools decided locally again as education minister says guidance is kept “under active review”
Coronavirus framework in schools across Wales will be reviewed on a weekly basis, the education minister has confirmed.
National guidance for schools and colleges had been set by the Welsh Government for the last few months due to the increase in cases and uncertainty caused by the omicron variant.
However from the start of the new term this week covid measures in education settings are being made at a local level and can be strengthened depending on the number of cases in the area.
As part of the return to local guidance face coverings will no longer be routinely recommended in classrooms. Face coverings should however be worn by secondary aged learners, staff and visitors in all schools when moving around indoor communal areas outside of the classroom, such as corridors, where physical distance cannot be maintained.
Schools who, based on their local context and advice need to operate at the ‘Very High’ risk level can continue to recommend that face coverings are used in classrooms by staff and secondary aged learners.
The use of regular lateral flow testing for staff in school and childcare settings, as well as secondary-aged learners, is also advised.
Speaking at a press briefing yesterday Wales’ Education Minister Jeremy Miles said the framework will be kept under “active weekly review”.
He said: “We’re on that journey in across society of lifting some of the restrictions which we’ve been living with for some time, and that will apply in schools as it does more broadly across society.
“As of this week schools will now be operating on the local control framework, which enables schools to vary their measures to reflect the local circumstances of that school.
“They have reached that decision in discussions with their local public health and local education authority officials.
“For the time being we are requiring schools generally to at least ask staff and secondary learners to wear face masks in communal areas but not in classrooms, and I plan to keep that under very active review.
“Coming back from a half term break, we need to keep an eye on the figures, in the period before the half term they were coming down and we hope and expect that will continue
“So I’ll be keeping those measures under active weekly review. But the flexibility now we’ve provided to schools to operate on that framework will enable schools to reflect their local circumstances much more closely than they’ve been able to.”
Asked how long he anticipated the framework to be in place and whether he expected measures to remain in the new school year, Mr Miles said there will be an ongoing need for schools and society to “continue having regard to their kind of local risk profiles.”
He said: “I think the move on to the framework is a move into a space where we recognise that the situation in society at large and in our schools is improving from a COVID point of view.
“I think what the framework does provide is a very wide range of approaches, which are available to schools and are available at really very short notice to respond to changes.
“I would hope and expect to see that schools over time move to the lower end of the interventions and the measures available in that framework.
“But there’ll be an ongoing need for schools and indeed, all parts of society to continue having regard to their kind of local risk profiles.
“I think what the framework provides is a readily available tool to be able to respond in a proportionate way to changing circumstances.
“We will want to make sure that schools are operating at their most proportionate level of intervention and as I say I expect that overtime to become the kind of low level of intervention.
“We’ll just keep under review whether the framework remains a useful tool in all circumstances.
“But the great merit of it is that it is very flexible and allows schools to respond in a very nimbly, if you like to changing circumstances.”
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