Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
I would like to inform you that I am writing to all headteachers and principals in Wales today 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.
Many of the 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.
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.
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.
New advice has been published today on the key changes to schools from September along with updated Operational Guidance 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. The Guidance for Further Education will be published next week.
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.
There may be a need to issue further updates in the event of any significant developments during the summer holiday period. I will keep you updated.
I have also taken the opportunity to thank the education workforce for their hard work and effort over the last academic year – I think we would all agree that the profession should look back over the last year with immense pride – they have shown immeasurable determination and resilience in supporting learning and keeping education settings as COVID-secure as possible.