Returning to school
From Monday 14th September school attendance became compulsory for all learners, including those that were previously shielding.
The Welsh Government’s view is that it would not be appropriate for a local authority/school to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) or commence proceedings for non-attendance at the school. The Welsh Government will monitor the situation over the first half term before reviewing its position.
If a learner is unable to attend the physical setting of the school for any reason it is vital the school continues to engage regularly with the learner remotely. Learning guidance is available to support schools in doing so.
Schools are asked to consider introducing staggered starts or adjusting start and finish times to keep groups of learners apart as they arrive at and leave school and to enable more journeys to take place outside of peak hours. This option will be more feasible in some circumstances than others.
There are no limits set on the number of children per classroom. However, contact between learners, learners and staff, and between staff will be reduced depending on the school’s circumstances and should include:
- Grouping learners together
- Avoiding contact between separate groups as much as possible
- Arranging classrooms with forward facing desks, recognising this may not be possible or appropriate in all schools/settings
- Staff maintaining distance from learners and other staff as much as possible.
The time learners spend outdoors should be maximised. This has important physical, mental and educational benefits and helps combat transmission of COVID-19.
Face coverings are required to be worn by all people over 11 years old in all indoor public places, such as shops, cinemas and museums.
Schools are not considered public places, and therefore the decision about whether to require face coverings in secondary schools will be made at a local authority level.
However, pupils or staff can wear face coverings should they wish to do so.
This is the set of actions schools must take, wherever possible:
- Minimise contact between all individuals wherever possible. For younger learners the emphasis will be on forming groups of learners and ensuring separation of those groups, and for older learners it will be on social/physical distancing.
- Staff responsible for younger learners should remain with set groups rather than interchange between different/a number of groups. All staff should adhere to the social/physical distancing measures as far as possible with younger learners, but should adhere to those measures in their interactions with older learners, other staff members and visitors to the school.
- Ensuring staff, learners and parents/carers fully understand that any staff member or learner who has possible symptoms of COVID-19 must not attend the school setting but must remain home and self-isolate, arrange a COVID-19 test and notify the school of this.
- Additionally, any family/household member of any member of staff member or learner who displays possible symptoms of COVID-19 then the staff member or learner must not attend the school setting but must remain at home and commence a period of household isolation. Again, the school should be notified of this.
- Where a staff member or learner becomes unwell at the school setting with possible symptoms of COVID-19 they should be sent home immediately where they should self-isolate and arrange a COVID-19 test. Until they leave the school setting (in the case of a learner waiting to be collected by a parent/carer) their contact with all other individuals at the setting should be minimised. If possible ensure they remain in a separate room until they are able to leave the setting.
- Clean hands thoroughly more often than usual.
- Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach.
- Ensure enhanced cleaning, including cleaning frequently touched surfaces often, using standard products such as detergents and disinfectants.
- Where necessary, in specific circumstances (such as contact with a suspected casein school) staff should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Where possible ensure appropriate ventilation.
Anyone with the following symptoms can request a test –
- a new continuous cough
- a high temperature
- loss of or change to sense of smell or taste
All members of the household or extended household of anyone displaying symptoms MUST self-isolate until the result is received.
If test is negative – you can return to school after providing evidence of a negative test result to the school.
If test is positive – All members of the household must isolate for 14 days (10 days for the person tested).
You will be contacted by the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service. The contact tracer will ask for details of your recent close contacts, they will explain what this means and help you through the process.
If anyone else in the household becomes unwell during the 14-day period, they should arrange to have a test to see if they have COVID-19.
If their test result is positive, they must follow the same advice for people with COVID-19 symptoms, that is, after 10 days of their symptoms starting, if they feel better and no longer have symptoms other than cough or loss of or change to sense of smell or taste – they can also return to their normal routine. However, if their test result is negative, they must continue with isolation as part of the household for the full 14 days.
If anyone becomes unwell after the 14 day period, the whole self-isolation process must begin again for the whole household not just the family member displaying symptoms.
If you are identified as a confirmed contact of someone else, you are at increased risk of catching the disease and passing it on to others. The contact tracer will get in touch and ask you to self-isolate for 14 days.
Illness in school
Where a staff member or learner becomes unwell at the school setting with possible symptoms of COVID-19, they should be sent home immediately where they should self-isolate and arrange a COVID-19 test. Until they leave the school setting (in the case of a learner waiting to be collected by a parent/carer) their contact with all other individuals at the setting should be minimised. If possible ensure they remain in a separate room until they are able to leave the setting.
Surfaces that learners or staff with symptoms have come into contact with should be carefully and thoroughly cleaned.
Positive cases in schools
If there is a single positive COVID-19 case amongst pupils and/or staff then the local contact tracing process will be initiated to minimise the spread of the virus. A positive test on site does not require closure of that site.
If two or more cases of COVID-19 in a single school setting are identified within 14 days, rapid response support will initially be provided by the regional Test, Trace, Protect team who will gather information about the outbreak.
An urgent incident meeting led by an Incident Management Team (IMT) is likely to be put in place to manage the outbreak and support the school/setting. Key individuals will investigate and manage the situation, and consider what adjustments and actions, such as isolation and wider testing should be considered. Testing of a wider group will depend on the risk analysis and the associated safety measures put in place within the individual environment.
Separate to this, testing will be undertaken by the local health board for everybody in the ‘bubbles’ (small, consistent group of no more than 8) that have been effected by the outbreak. Everyone in the school will be tested if it has been established that Welsh Government guidelines for schools has not been followed. This will be rapidly made available by the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service in partnership with Local Health Boards to support all outbreaks in schools/setting. This might be through the deployment of Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) or temporary testing satellites and drop-off and collection routes.
An incident will be declared over when there has been 28 days since the onset of the last confirmed case in the school/setting and the results of any possible cases in learners or staff in that time have tested negative.
Although the intention is for all learners to return to school in September, every school will also need to plan for the possibility of a further local lockdown.
Given the uncertainty over future transmission levels, for the foreseeable future, it is essential that we prepare for a range of possible circumstances.
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.
Source – Welsh Government (2nd September 2020), ‘Operational guidance for schools and settings from the autumn term (version 3)’. Available at: https://gov.wales/operational-guidance-schools-and-settings-autumn-term-version-3-html#section-49224