Posted: Fri 15th May 2020

Education Minister sets out ‘current thinking’ on how school in Wales can return

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, May 15th, 2020

The Welsh Government has today published a document setting out how it is considering the next phase for schools, in response to COVID-19.

It follows a ‘roadmap’ for moving out of lockdown which was also published today.

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has described the working document as “setting out our current thinking” for how schools, other education settings and childcare providers’ operations will change to allow social distancing and other factors.

Most schools have been closed since the start of the pandemic, with some open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

However speaking at this afternoon’s daily Welsh Government press conference, First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“We have an ambition of being able to bring some cohorts of children back into school before the summer holidays.

But that is not going to be the general position. Schools will not open in full before the summer holidays. I’m very happy to repeat that and to make it clear this afternoon.”

A decision framework for the next phase of education and childcare builds on the five principles published by the Minister last month.

The Welsh Government is working with scientists, public health experts, teachers, education providers, trade unions and local authorities to consider the options for the next phase for schools and settings with similar challenges, such as childcare providers and further education colleges.

Practices introduced in Denmark around the use of other buildings to increase capacity; regular handwashing and cleaning; staggering arrivals and departures; and use of floor markings, are being considered in Wales, the document reveals. 

Kirsty Williams said: “As the Education Minister for Wales, I will make the decisions on how and when more pupils in Wales will return to school. Today I am sharing further information on how those decisions will be reached.

Nothing would make me happier than seeing our classrooms full again. But I want to be clear that this framework does not – and I will not – set an arbitrary date for when more pupils will return to school. Setting a date before we have more evidence, more confidence and more control over the virus would be the wrong thing to do.

This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing operation. These changes will be complex, with many different considerations. I want the working document to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback.

I am sharing this today to be as transparent as possible. I want everyone to know the extent of the issues related to the next phase.

When we are ready to move into that next phase, I will ensure that there is enough time for preparation and for staff to carry out any necessary training.”

This framework sets out the ‘high-level decisions’ that will need to be taken by Ministers. 

“This will be supported by decisions and activity at each level: Welsh Government will provide guidance but it will be for schools and other providers, working with local authorities as appropriate, to develop ways of working (in line with that clear guidance), which allow for the return of children/learners to a safe and supportive environment.” The document states.

How will the Welsh Government decide to reopen schools? 

The document published today states: “In gathering evidence for these decisions, we will draw on a range of expertise and evidence.

We are meeting with the following groups regularly, if not weekly.”

-> Technical Advisory Cell: children and education subgroup – this includes a range of Welsh Government officials and expert advisors to provide evidence on the scientific and health factors and implications. 

-> Headteachers and leaders stakeholder group – drawing together a reference group of leads of schools and other providers from childcare through to university. 

-> Strategic Education Delivery Partners stakeholder group – providing reference from local authorities, regional consortia, Estyn, further education and Qualifications Wales. 

-> Trade Unions partnership. 

-> Colegau Cymru Principals’ forum. 

-> Childcare and Play Stakeholder Reference Group – includes representation from the childcare and play sector, Care Inspectorate Wales, Estyn, local authorities, Social Care Wales and the Future Generations, Children’s and Welsh Language Commissioners. 

The framework document goes onto to say: “Confidence of parents/carers, children and young people are key factors in our consideration. 

Work is continuing to ensure we gather their attitudes, view and opinions systematically to inform decision-making. 

In addition, we are considering international evidence around learning and child health and well-being. 

We are drawing on a range of international examples of response to disruptions to learning. 

For example, we are considering practice in Denmark around the use of other buildings to increase capacity; regular handwashing and cleaning; staggering arrivals and departures; and use of floor markings.”

You can read more here: The decision framework for the next phase of education and childcare: considerations, planning and challenges 

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