THE WELSH Government has issued guidance on how schools should operate come September.

The documents cover everything from whether parents should be fined for a child’s non-attendance to the possibility of local lockdowns.

Attendance

It would be “difficult” for local authorities or schools to justify fining parents for non-attendance, the guidance says.

But all learners should return to their school or setting in September unless they have a medical or health reason not to.

“This will include learners who are still shielding, if the advice at the time is that they should attend school,” the guidance says.

“If a learner is unable to attend the physical setting of the school it is vital that the school continues to engage regularly with the learner remotely.”

Catering

Canteens should be “fully open”.

And those eligible for free school meals should also be provided with them.

School uniform

The Welsh Government is encouraging a return to “usual uniform policies” after many schools relaxed their uninform code over the summer term.

“Uniform can play a valuable role in contributing to the ethos of a school and setting an appropriate tone.”

Breakfast clubs

“Breakfast Clubs and after school provision Local authorities, working with their schools should consider resuming any breakfast and after school provision, where possible whether this is provision offered by the school or run out of the school by a private provider.”

Local lockdown

Every school needs to plan for a local lockdown, the guidance says.

“Given our uncertainty over future transmission levels, for the foreseeable future, it is essential that we prepare for a range of possible circumstances.

“The Welsh Government will work closely to monitor health conditions working closely with Public Health Wales and local authorities, in particular in the case of potential localised outbreaks.”

How will learners be grouped?

The Welsh Government accepts that “learners” and “especially the youngest learners” cannot socially distance from staff or each other.

“Maintaining distinct contact groups that do not mix makes it quicker and easier, in the event of a positive case, to identify those who may need to self-isolate and to keep that number as low as possible.”

In Primary Schools, smaller groups the “size of a full class” are recommended.

But in secondary schools, the size of contact groups are likely to “need to be the size of a year group” to deliver the full range of subjects.

“All teachers and staff can operate across different classes and year groups in order to facilitate the delivery of the school timetable

“Where staff need to move between classes and year groups, they should try and keep their distance from learners and other staff as much as they can, ideally two metres from other adults.”

Assemblies

Contact groups should be kept apart where possible, meaning that schools should avoid large gatherings such as assemblies or collective worship with more than one group.

Staggered start times

Schools should “consider staggered starts or adjusting start and finish times” to keep contact groups apart.

“A staggered start may, for example, include condensing/staggering free periods or break time but retaining the same amount of teaching time, or keeping the length of the day the same but starting and finishing later to avoid rush hour.”

When might staff have to wear PPE?

Routine activities

No PPE is required when undertaking routine educational activities in classroom or school settings.

Suspected COVID-19

Gloves, aprons and a fluid-resistant surgical mask should be worn if a child or young person becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 and needs direct personal care.

Eye protection should also be worn if a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes such as from coughing, spitting, or vomiting.

Gloves and aprons should be used when cleaning the areas where a person suspected of having COVID-19 has been.

Intimate care

Gloves and aprons should continue to be used when providing intimate care to a child or young person. This can include personal, hands-on care such as washing, toileting, or first aid and certain clinical procedures such as assisted feeding.

Fluid-resistant surgical masks and eye protection should also be worn if a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes such as from coughing, spitting, or vomiting.

Gloves, fluid repellent gowns, FFP3 masks and eye protection are indicated when undertaking aerosol generating procedures such as suction.

Gloves and aprons should be used when cleaning equipment or surfaces that might be contaminated with body fluids such as saliva or respiratory secretions

Will the school have to close if there is an infection?

In the event of a positive test, a contact tracer will contact the person tested to help identify potential contacts.

A second contact tracer will then get in touch with those contacts and advise them to self-isolate for 14 days from their last contact with the person who tested positive.

A contact is defined as someone who has had close contact during this period, specifically:

Within one metre of the person who has tested positive and has been coughed on, had a face-to-face conversation, had skin-to-skin physical contact, or been in other forms of contact within one metre for one minute or longer.

Within two metres of the person testing positive for more than 15 minutes.

Having travelled in a vehicle with the person who has tested positive.

Where staff have maintained social/physical distancing rules and adhered to hygiene measures during work and where required have used personal protective equipment (PPE) or worked behind an appropriate screen or partition, they would not be regarded as part of a contact tracing exercise for these purposes.

A positive test on site therefore does not require closure of that site.

What’s the risk?

"The latest published evidence in relation to the transmissibility in learners under the age of 12 seems to be particularly low. Children under the age of 18 make up 22 to 25 per cent of the population, but consistently make up less than 2% of the total Covid-19 caseload in every country."

Preventative measures:

  • Minimise contact between individuals wherever possible. For younger learners the emphasis will be on separating groups, and for older learners it will be on distancing.
  • Minimise contact with individuals who are unwell by ensuring that those who have COVID-19 symptoms, or who have someone in their household who does, do not attend school.
  • Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual.
  • Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach.
  • Continue enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, using standard products such as detergents and bleach.
  • Where necessary, in specific circumstances (set out later in the guidance), wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Where possible ensure appropriate ventilation.