COVID decisions for educational settings in Wales will be made on a local level from the end of the month.
National guidance for schools and colleges has 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 the start of the new half term on 28 February will see schools return to using the Local Infection Control Decision Framework.
From that date Education Minister, Jeremy Miles, said that all schools should implement the advice on use of face coverings for the ‘High’ risk level as set out in the Framework as a minimum.
This means that 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.
Staff working in special schools continue to be strongly advised to undertake a LFD test every day before they go to work.
This level of testing will be kept under review during the next half term with the minister saying reducing it would “be on a gradual basis and will take into account the unique circumstances of this sector.”
Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said: “As announced earlier today, the Welsh Government’s latest 21-day review has concluded how protections will be gradually relaxed if we continue to see improvements in the public health situation.
“As signalled in my statement on 25 January, I am confirming today that schools will return to using the Local Infection Control Decision Framework by the beginning of the new half term on 28 February.
“The national framework sets clear guidance to enable schools to tailor interventions to reflect local circumstances. Schools will be supported by public health officials and local authorities to ensure measures are appropriate and based on evidence.
“The framework also consists of core measures that should be in place, regardless of risk level.
“As part of our cautious, phased and planned approach to easing restrictions so we can prioritise learning, schools should note the following key points when planning for the new half term.
“The regulations regarding school sessions times were temporarily disapplied from the start of January to allow schools to make changes to their school session times. This ends on 18 February, and schools must return to their usual arrangements when learners return after the half term break.
“The Framework has been updated and published today to reflect these changes. Schools should use the next week to plan and implement changes to operational arrangements and ensure learners and their parents/guardians, as well as staff members, are clear of these changes for the return after the half term break.
“We will continue to keep our advice under regular review.”