EDUCATION MINISTER Jeremy Miles has today written to all headteachers and principals in Wales to provide more clarity on how schools and colleges can continue to operate safely when they return in September.
As we continue to monitor Covid case rates across Wales, and how they relate to hospital admissions, the success of our vaccine programme gives us cause to be optimistic about the future. As restrictions are eased across wider society, so too should educational settings see a similar pattern.
Three main changes are being proposed to bring some normality back to education ahead of the new autumn term. They are:
(1) Face coverings will no longer be routinely recommended in classrooms;
(2) Contact groups will no longer be required for school pupils or full-time learners in colleges. We will use our TTP system in order to identify close contacts of learners who have tested positive.
(3) Normal session times will resume.
The Minister said, “By the end of September all adults in Wales will have been offered both vaccinations, providing greater protection for our education workforce. A growing body of evidence also shows that children and young people are more at harm from missing school than from Covid.
“Lots of young people I have spoken to have said that they don’t believe the current system is proportionate. They just want to be treated the same as everyone else – and that sounds fair to me.”
We will publish The Local Covid-19 Infection Control Decision Framework at the start of the autumn term so that schools have time to embed new systems during the weeks that follow. The framework will enable schools and colleges to tailor some of the interventions to reflect the level of risk identified locally. They will be supported by public health officials and local authorities to ensure measures are appropriate to their circumstances.
The Minister also said, “Before you embark on a well-earned break this summer I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for all your hard work and effort over the last academic year. I hope the break will offer you, and your staff, a chance to look back over the last year with immense pride – you have shown immeasurable determination and resilience in supporting learning and keeping education settings as Covid-secure as possible.”
Responding to the Education Minister’s Covid statement this afternoon, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister, Laura Anne Jones MS said:
“Following the successful vaccination programme, it’s great to see that the Welsh Labour Government has listened to calls from the Welsh Conservatives about the importance of returning to some sort of normality as soon as possible in our schools and colleges. It’s what our children and teachers desperately require.
“The removal of masks, bubbles and staggered starts is a welcomed part of the statement, and I am pleased that the Minister now recognises the need for these decisions to be made by Welsh Government, which is the right thing to do.
“However, I remain concerned that the Welsh Labour Government’s much maligned COVID-19 infection control decision framework will not be ready until the start of the Autumn term. Schools need more clarity about their level of responsibility as soon as possible and this important detail must be expedited by Labour ministers.”