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JM Jeremy Miles Education Minister - School Portrait, March 2021

Changes to keep schools safe and learners learning

Cyhoeddi newidiadau i gadw ysgolion yn ddiogel a dysgwyr yn dysgu

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:

  • Face coverings will no longer be routinely recommended in classrooms;
  • 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.
  • 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.”

Notes to editors

  • New advice has been published today on the key changes from September along with updated Operational Guidance (link) which provides further detail on all of the elements set out in the letter, including further clarity on the roles and responsibilities associated with the TTP process from September.
  • There may be a need to issue further updates in the event of any significant developments during the summer holiday period. In these circumstances, we will work with our partners to consider how best to provide them with the time required to make any necessary adjustments to mitigations at the start of term.
  • Also contained in the advice note published today is;
    • Over the summer holidays there will be no expectation for staff or learners to continue with Lateral Flow Tests. If however, settings remain open we would encourage this to continue. Anyone wishes to continue testing they can do so through their local community channels.
    • Testing will continue to play a part in supporting schools and settings in the autumn to quickly identify and isolate infected individuals. School staff, secondary age learners and college staff and learners should be encouraged to undertake Lateral Flow Tests just before the start of term. Tests will be accessed through community channels and any further access to tests after term has started will be through the school collection system.