Changes to the way schools will operate from September 2021
The way that schools operate will change again from September 2021, as Welsh Government relaxes many of the controls that were necessary to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.
The following ‘Question & Answer’ section highlights the main changes:
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.
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
- 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
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 stopped on 7 August 2021. Reducing close interactions between learners, learners and staff, and between staff is still important and schools will limit them where possible. Schools will also encourage physical distancing in communal areas outside of the classroom such as corridors, but this may not always be possible with younger children and those requiring one-to-one support.
Will people have to wear face coverings on school sites?
The requirement for people to wear face coverings in Wales changed on 7 August 2021. Masks are now only 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 over the age of 11 are still expected to wear face coverings on public transport and other home to school transport.
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. Close contacts will be asked to take a test and will be allowed to return to school unless they test positive for Coronavirus
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.
Will staff and learners still be using Lateral Flow Tests from September?
Staff and learners are being encouraged to take tests before they return to school in September. Everyone can voluntarily continue to test after then, with test kits available from the community testing facilities or online at www.gov.uk, but the emphasis in schools will be to work with Track Trace Protect to encourage the testing of contacts for confirmed cases of Coronavirus.