Three Covid tests a week and staggered start times – Education Minister update on school arrangements for new year
Schools in Flintshire will be allowed to operate staggered start and finish times from the start of next term.
Pupils and staff will also be encouraged to take three Covid tests a week when they return to classrooms in January.
Schools will be asked to make “robust plans” to move to remote learning if required.
Wales’ Education Minister Jeremy Miles has issued a statement today on operational arrangements for schools and colleges from January.
A teachers’ union has been calling for a staggered return to schools in Wales after the Christmas break.
Unions urged the Welsh Government earlier this week to “act immediately and to not delay critical decisions until the commencement of the school and college holiday period.”
Flintshire council has already announced an early end to face-to-face learning for schools in the county with a move to blended learning for the final three days of the term next week.
In his statement today, Mr Miles said: “Our collective priority continues to be to minimise the disruption to education, and ensure where possible learners continue to receive in-person learning, as well as protecting staff, learners and communities.”
“I know that the autumn term has been particularly challenging for school staff, learners and their families, and the level of disruption due to staff capacity has resulted in some schools having to make the difficult decision to move certain classes/year groups to remote learning for short periods.”
He said: “In recognition of the challenges that schools and colleges have faced, and the current levels of uncertainty regarding the impact of Omicron, I have today written to all schools and colleges to provide as much clarity now as I can to enable them to plan and prepare for the return in January.”
Schools will be asked to make use of the planning days to ensure they have “robust plans in place to move to remote learning if required – this could be for individual classes/year groups or possibly for the whole school.”
As a precautionary approach “all schools have been advised to plan that mitigations from January onwards are based on those set out at the ‘Very High’ risk level in our Local Infection Control Decision Framework for schools.”
“As part of this preparation, I am issuing a Coronavirus Act 2020 Notice to as an additional mitigation should schools determine this is appropriate as part of their risk assessment process.” Mr Miles said.
Mr Miles said that for both schools and colleges in Wales, from the return in January, “we will continue with our national approach to the wearing of face coverings.”
“We will offer enhanced testing which includes strongly advising all staff and secondary aged learners, to test three times a week using Lateral Flow Tests. We will be increasing our communications to remind staff and learners of the importance of regular testing.” He added.
The Education Minister said: “This is a fast evolving situation and we continue to monitor the latest data and evidence.”
“I would like reiterate my thanks to all in the education community for all they have done during these most challenging of times.”
Laura Doel, Director of head teachers union, NAHT Cymru, said: “We welcome the changes announced today on planning days and the relaxation of sessions times.”
‘“Schools have suffered significantly from staff absence since September and, given that the new variant is even more transmissible, we can be certain that Covid will continue to impact on staffing levels.”
“School settings cannot stay open and remote learning cannot be supported if the workforce is unavailable.”
“That is why we urged the Welsh Government to introduce additional mitigation measures, like staggering session times to control the flow of learners and parents coming in and out of school, at the start of next term.”
“No-one wants further mitigations in schools, but the continuation of education is a priority.”
“NAHT Cymru has pledged to work with the government, and discussions will continue over the Christmas and New Year period to respond to the rapidly changing situation.”
“But it is essential that school staff have a break over Christmas and we are pleased to see the government has recognised that by giving schools some time at the beginning of term to make any changes.” Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com