Posted: Mon 28th Jun 2021

Decisions over coronavirus safety measures in Welsh schools to be made locally rather than ‘blanket approach’

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jun 28th, 2021

Wales’ new education minister has outlined plans to bring coronavirus safety measures in schools under local control.

Currently all education settings in Wales follow national guidance in terms of face masks, social distancing, hygiene measures, the use of lateral flow tests and self isolation for “bubbles”.

Speaking at today’s Welsh Government press briefing the newly appointed Education Minister, Jeremy Miles, said there will be a “need to move to a more localised approach rather than a blanket approach” as Wales moves into the next stage of the pandemic.

The minister noted that whilst education settings will not be “back to normal by September”, the Welsh Government will “look to gradually ease the extraordinary measures we’ve had to put in place.”

As part of this a new ‘framework’ will be published which will allow an “escalation or de-escalation of measures, such as testing the use of face coverings, and social distancing.”

These decisions would be made by local incident management teams and do not mean that safety measures can be scraped altogether.

Mr Miles explained the framework will also look “at best practice across Wales to ensure that we do not have a disproportionate number of learners self isolating.”

Mr Miles said: “While we will not simply be back to normal by September we will look to gradually ease the extraordinary measures we’ve had to put in place.

“Our guiding principle has to be a move towards education being enabled to operate as normally as possible in the autumn.

“The framework will set out a range of safety measures depending on the risk category based on low, moderate, high and very high risk categories.

“In the spirit of social partnership we are sharing draft frameworks with partners this week to be further developed between now and the end of term.

“The framework will allow escalation or de-escalation of measures such as testing, the use of face coverings and social distancing. It will apply to schools, colleges and universities and follows the approach already modelled in care homes.

“Clearly as part of our discussions with partners, we need to be looking at the key challenges which schools colleges and universities currently face. That includes looking at best practice across Wales to ensure that we do not have a disproportionate number of learners self isolating.

“While class or year bubbles have played an important role over the last year, we need to ensure that settings distinguish between bubbles on the one hand and personal contact with cases on the other.

“Linked to this we want to discuss how settings can return to the usual session times as opposed to having staggered start and finish times as currently in place.

“These changes do not mean a wholesale removal of mitigating measures but they are about our schools, colleges and universities being able to make decisions based on the balance of harms and minimising disruption to learning all within the wider context of our successful vaccine program and relatively low case numbers.”

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