Officers from Torfaen Council have published a Q&A guide so parents and children know what to expect when the new term starts in September 2021. They have given the update in response to the upcoming relaxation of coronavirus restrictions from the Welsh Government
This information is from Torfaen Council.
Why is the way schools operate going to change again?
Welsh Government is confident that relaxations are now possible because of the progress that continues to be made with the rollout of the vaccination programme, which will aim to ensure that everyone working in our education system will have been offered both vaccinations by the end of September, growing the defences against the virus. There has been a marked reduction in hospitalisations and severe illness.
Will schools be safe places?
Schools will continue to follow the basic system of controls for infection control, established by Public Health Wales. These controls will minimise risks of the virus spreading and mirror those in the wider population. They include:
-a requirement that people stay at home and self-isolate if they:
- have symptoms of COVID-19, whether they feel unwell or not
- have tested positive, even if asymptomatic
- have been advised by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect to do so
- are household members of a positive case, even if that case is asymptomatic
- are required to self-isolate for travel-related reasons
-good hand and respiratory hygiene in learners and staff members
-appropriate ventilation measures on school premises and regular cleaning
– actively working with Track Trace Protect
-consideration of how to reduce contacts and maximise social and physical distancing between those in school, wherever possible, and putting in place appropriate mitigating measures to minimise the potential for contamination so far as is reasonably practicable.
Will schools go back to their normal hours?
Yes. Staggered starts and finishes will no longer be necessary, and schools will not need to close early for Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA). Schools will remind their parents and learners of the normal hours for the new academic year.
Will the rules on social distancing still apply?
The legal requirement for social distancing in Wales is expected to stop on 7 August 2021. Reducing contact close interactions between learners, learners and staff, and between staff is still important. Contact groups and bubbles will no longer be needed but schools will ensure as far as practicable that staff:
- maintain social distance from other staff
- staff maintain social distancing from learners, but noting this will not be possible with young and vulnerable children
- make the most of the space available, including outdoor space
- encourage older children to maintain social distance where possible
Will people have to wear face coverings on school sites?
The requirement for people to wear face coverings in Wales is expected to change on 7 August 2021. From that date masks will only be required in most public places and on public transport. Welsh Government no longer recommends the routine use of face coverings in the classroom for staff or secondary school learners but advise that schools and settings may wish to encourage their use in areas where there is likely to be more social mixing, such as in communal areas. Each school will consider this as part of the review of their Coronavirus risk assessment and ensure that learners, staff and visitors are told about the expectations on their site. Anyone who wishes to wear a mask regardless of a school’s expectations will be allowed to do so.
Will learners have to wear face coverings on home-to-school transport?
Learners using public transport will need to follow the rules advised by the transport company, which will be informed by the expectations place on it by Welsh Government. It is currently expected that learners over the age of 11 on local authority arranged home to school transport will still be expected to wear face coverings for the time-being.
Will children/ young people still be sent home to self-isolate if there is a positive Coronavirus in their class/year?
Welsh Government recognises that whilst this has been an important tool in fighting the virus to date it has been very disruptive to children’s education. From September the Track Trace Protect system will only look at close contacts of learners who have tested positive rather than whole classes/year groups. This approach will be finalised over the summer holiday, ready for implementation from September.
Will the impact of these relaxations be closely monitored?
These are significant changes and the impact they have will be monitored locally by our local Track Trace Protect, as well as nationally by Welsh Government to ensure they remain appropriate. Nobody can rule out that it might be necessary to reverse some of them at a future date, but we are hopeful that will not be the case.
Will schools still have one-way systems for people to follow?
Schools will individually review their current arrangements for people moving around their sites, and will communicate that to learners and visitors at the start of term. Arrangements will differ between sites.
Will breakfast clubs and after-school clubs be available from the start of the school year?
Breakfast Clubs will be available and schools will review their after-school club provision in light of the relaxations being made by Welsh Government. They will communicate directly with parents as provision that was suspended re-starts.
Are parents allowed to congregate outside schools at the start and end of the day?
Welsh Government still expects that schools and settings should take steps to encourage parents/carers to not remain on the premises/at the gates longer than necessary especially when dropping off/collecting children.
Will staff and learners still be using Lateral Flow Tests from September?
Staff across all schools and learners in our secondary schools will be encouraged to continue using Lateral Flow Tests to check they do not have the virus. Everybody will be asked to do a test just before they return to school, but they can of course carry on testing throughout the summer if they want to.
Our secondary schools have been providing test kits but if you run out, or your child is due to start secondary school in September so has not been testing, kits can be picked up from the community testing facilities.