Today (Friday, 27 August), the Welsh Government published “Local COVID-19 Infection Control Decision Framework for schools from autumn 2021”.
Commenting on the updated guidance, Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union, NAHT Cymru, said: “We welcome the fact that schools have until 20 September to transition to the new framework. It is the transition period we called for to ensure school teams were not expected to work on planning the logistics during the summer holiday – which came at the end of an intensive 16 months with hardly a break for them.
“However, there are elements of the framework that are contradictory and likely to lead to confusion.
“Stating that operations should return to ‘business as usual’ seems out of step, given that Covid-19 cases are rising and the First Minister says he won’t rule out further restrictions coming back into place.
“Vaccination take-up in Wales is high, but it won’t stop people getting Covid and it won’t stop teachers and learners having to take time away from the classroom if they contract the virus. We don’t want unnecessary measures in place for the sake of it, but there must be a balance with protecting school staff and learners to ensure the return to school is sustainable.
“We fail to see how school leaders are going to pick up this framework and know what to do, which will leave us once again turning to local authorities for support in establishing local authority-wide approaches to give some level of consistency and support to schools.”
Pointing out some of the specific elements of the framework, Laura said: “The framework states that Wales is at low risk, yet two days ago the Welsh Government instructed schools to continue with lateral flow testing on secondary pupils and all school staff. According to today’s framework, that is a practice for when we are at high risk. Also, where today’s advice refers to rising hospital admissions and the seven-day rolling incidence of infection, that appears to put us in the moderate risk category. Added to this, there is a lack of differentiation between the measures to take, depending on the risk level. When we are talking about risk, when we are planning for what we want to be a sustainable return, we must be absolutely clear of the risk level. We don’t feel this is clear enough.
“Where someone tests positive for Covid, it will be the responsibility of Test, Trace and Protect to contact that individual, identify close contacts and get in touch with them to advise on PCR tests and to advise on action such as to self-isolate. Suggesting seating plans for learners and identifying friendship groups is unworkable and we have made this point time and time again. It’s the reason why contact groups were originally put in place because it is impossible to manage learners any other way. Gone are the days when children sit at desks all day, particularly in primary schools, that’s not the way teaching and learning is delivered. To put in those measures would absolutely have a detrimental impact on learners, far more than contact groups would. We remain to be convinced that the ‘warn and inform’ approach is accurate and reliable.”
First published 27 August 2021