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NAHT Cymru: advice on face coverings in schools

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Current Welsh Government advice on face coverings in schools

On 26 August, the Welsh Government announced that it was reviewing its advice on face coverings in schools. In a joint statement published by health minister Vaughan Gething and education minister Kirsty Williams, the government has decided to amend its position in response to recent publications from the UK chief medical officers and deputy chief medical officers and the World Health Organisation.

The current advice from the chief medical officer for Wales (as of 26 August 2020) is as follows: "Face coverings are recommended for all members of the public over 11 years in indoor settings in which social distancing cannot be maintained, including schools and school transport. As a result, schools, FE settings and local authorities are to undertake risk assessments of their estates to determine if face coverings should be recommended for their staff and young people in communal areas. This will also include school and college transport. 

"As part of the risk assessment, we recommend that staff, students, families and unions are engaged. Social distancing is still required in the classroom, so face-to-face teaching without coverings can continue. The overall interests of the young person must be given priority in these assessments, and there must be no risk of exclusion from transport to school. Face coverings may need to be provided to young people who don't have them if they are recommended locally.

"At present, the incidence of coronavirus in the community is low, but we expect to see clusters of cases, which may require additional local control measures. In addition to the support provided and advice by our Test Trace Protect service, these should be taken in accordance with our recently published Coronavirus Control Plan. 

"This guidance will remain under review as the pandemic continues and may change if community prevalence changes across Wales in the future." 

Difference in approach between primary and secondary schools

The statement does not make a clear distinction between primary and secondary aged pupils, and it only refers to children aged 11 or older. We assume that you will only need to do face-covering risk assessments in schools where pupils are aged 11 or older, but we are seeking clarification. 

At present, the operational guidance has not been changed to reflect the change in position announced on 26 August. We expect guidance to be available after 1 September.

NAHT Cymru's position on face coverings

NAHT has been clear with the government that if the scientific evidence advocates the use of face coverings in schools, this is something we would support. 

However, we do not support the government's position that it should be down to individual schools and LAs to decide on whether face coverings are needed. That is a decision that should be taken at a government level to ensure consistency across Wales.  

We do not accept the government's excuse that school leaders know their schools best. School leaders are not medical experts, and the government should not expect them to make decisions of this magnitude. 

While that statement is true, it is unacceptable to expect head teachers to take on that burden of responsibility, given that they do not have the expertise in the efficacy of face coverings. 

When it comes to protective measures, what school leaders require is absolute clarity, not discretion. As such, we will continue to lobby the government to take a clear and unambiguous line on this and reconsider making a Wales-wide decision.

Advice to school leaders

In the meantime, NAHT's advice is that it would be prudent for secondary schools to ask pupils and staff to wear face coverings in corridors and communal spaces unless there is a compelling reason not to. Erring on the side of caution would seem a sensible approach to take given the information coming out of the World Health Organisation.

From a practical perspective, we recommend informing your chair of governors and local authority about the approach you are going to take concerning face coverings to ensure everyone is aligned, as there is potential for some push-back from some parents and pupils.  

We also recommend that you develop a plan to communicate this to parents, pupils and staff to ensure the approach is clear. You may also want to consider putting a policy in place that addresses issues such as the steps you will take if pupils don't bring a face covering to school with them or refuse to wear them.  

You should also consider children who are exempt from wearing face coverings due to unique needs – you will need to handle this sensitively, and you should consider it in advance of the use of face coverings being implemented where possible. 

It would also be useful to consider whether any pupils or staff have particular needs that could be impacted by those around them wearing face coverings. For example, deaf pupils or staff who may lip-read or partially rely on lip-reading. What steps can you take to minimise the difficulties caused to these individuals by the use of face coverings?

Staff and 11-year-old pupils in primary schools

Currently, there is no specific guidance relating to primary schools and the use of face coverings. Up until now, the Welsh Government has not endorsed the general use of face coverings by adults in schools. Still, many schools and local authorities have made their own decisions having spoken to their staff and trade unions. 

As stated previously, NAHT's position is that an inflexible blanket-ban on staff wearing face coverings is unlikely to be helpful as settings, the provision in schools and the required tasks vary from setting to setting, even within a single local authority.

Most importantly, all schools have a duty of care to their staff, and this extends to their mental health and well-being.

If any school staff member feels personally reassured and more confident in returning to fully reopened school settings by being allowed to wear appropriate face coverings, school leaders still retain the authority and flexibility within existing government guidance to allow this to happen. 

Schools will also need to take into consideration the ability of the staff member to undertake their work with children and young people effectively, especially pupils with hearing or communication impairments.

It will also be important to remind those members of staff about how to use face coverings safely. We understand that the Welsh Government may update its advice concerning staff in primary schools shortly. 

NAHT Cymru next steps in addressing concerns

NAHT has posed a range of questions to the Welsh Government relating to face coverings following this announcement. These include the following:

  • What are the implications of this for staff in primary schools?
  • Are 11-year-old pupils in primary schools expected to be included in risk assessments? And what about children who turn 11 during the academic year?
  • How will this be implemented in special schools?
  • Will schools have to supply face coverings now that the government has made clear they must be three-ply coverings?
  • If not, who will be responsible for quality control of masks?
  • What happens if a child turns up without their face covering and the school does not have a supply?
  • If schools are to provide coverings to ensure consistency, who will supply and pay for them?
  • Will parents be expected to wear face coverings at drop-off/collection?

As soon as we receive answers to these questions, we will update this FAQ accordingly.

Special schools

It is important to remember that some pupils are exempt from wearing face coverings, and it is likely that a higher number of pupils in some special schools will fit into this category. Schools will want to consider the unique needs of their pupils and liaise with parents about this sensitive issue. School leaders know their pupils and are best placed to make individual decisions in consultation with parents in their settings.

Supporting pupils who are unable to wear face coverings

We have been made aware of some useful materials for use with children, young people and their families who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to wear face coverings. This might be particularly useful for journeys to and from school, or general travel on public transport.

For some, wearing a face mask is not possible because of their disability or because it causes them severe distress. These are two examples of the reasons the government has set out for exemption, and people should never be abused for not wearing a mask – especially as many people may have a hidden disability.

Mencap has created an easy-to-read guide that explains the rules, and Keep Safe has produced an exemption card to help people with a learning disability explain why they are not wearing a mask.

Schools may wish to share these resources with their families.

 



Cyngor cyfredol Llywodraeth Cymru ar orchuddion wyneb mewn ysgolion

Ar 26 Awst, cyhoeddodd Llywodraeth Cymru eu bod yn adolygu eu cyngor ar orchuddion wyneb mewn ysgolion.  Mewn datganiad ar y cyd a gyhoeddwyd gan y Gweinidog Iechyd Vaughan Gething a’r Gweinidog Addysg Kirsty Williams, mae’r llywodraeth wedi penderfynu diwygio eu safbwynt mewn ymateb i gyhoeddiadau diweddar gan Brif Swyddogion Meddygol a Dirprwy Brif Swyddogion Meddygol y DU a Sefydliad Iechyd y Byd.

Mae’r cyngor cyfredol gan Brif Swyddog Meddygol Cymru (ar 26 Awst) fel a ganlyn: 

Argymhellir gorchuddion wyneb ar gyfer pob aelod o'r cyhoedd dros 11 mlwydd oed mewn lleoliadau dan do lle na ellir cynnal pellter cymdeithasol, gan gynnwys ysgolion a chludiant ysgol. O ganlyniad i hyn, bydd angen i ysgolion, sefydliadau AB ac awdurdodau lleol gynnal asesiadau risg o'u hystadau i benderfynu a ddylid argymell gorchuddion wyneb i'w staff a'u pobl ifanc mewn ardaloedd lle mae pobl yn ymgynnull. Bydd hyn hefyd yn cynnwys cludiant ysgol a choleg. 

Fel rhan o'r asesiad risg rydym yn argymell bod staff, myfyrwyr, teuluoedd ac undebau yn cael eu cynnwys yn y cynlluniau hyn.  Mae angen pellhau cymdeithasol yn yr ystafell ddosbarth o hyd, felly gall addysgu wyneb yn wyneb heb orchuddion barhau.  Rhaid rhoi blaenoriaeth i fuddiannau cyffredinol y person ifanc yn yr asesiadau hyn, ac ni ddylai fod unrhyw risg o waharddiad rhag defnyddio cludiant i'r ysgol.  Efallai y bydd angen darparu gorchuddion wyneb i bobl ifanc sydd hebddynt, os ydyn nhw'n cael eu hargymell yn lleol. 

Ar hyn o bryd, mae nifer yr achosion o coronafeirws yn y gymuned yn isel, ond rydym yn disgwyl gweld clystyrau o achosion, a allai olygu mesurau rheoli lleol ychwanegol. Yn ychwanegol at y cymorth a ddarperir a'r cyngor a roddir gan ein gwasanaeth Prosiect Profion ac Olrhain, dylid cymryd y rhain yn unol â'n Cynllun Rheoli Coronafeirws a gyhoeddwyd yn ddiweddar. 

Bydd y canllawiau hyn yn parhau i gael eu hadolygu wrth i'r pandemig barhau, a gallant newid os bydd lefelau heintio yn y gymuned yn newid ledled Cymru yn y dyfodol. 

Gwahaniaeth o ran dull gweithredu mewn ysgolion cynradd ac uwchradd

Nid yw'r datganiad yn gwahaniaethu'n glir rhwng disgyblion cynradd ac uwchradd ac mae’n cyfeirio at blant 11 oed neu'n hŷn yn unig.  Ein rhagdybiaeth yw mai dim ond mewn ysgolion lle mae disgyblion 11 oed neu'n hŷn y bydd angen asesiadau risg ynghylch gorchuddion wyneb, ond rydym yn ceisio eglurhad ynglŷn â hyn. 

Ar hyn o bryd nid yw'r canllawiau gweithredol wedi cael eu newid i adlewyrchu'r newid o ran safbwynt a gyhoeddwyd ar Awst 26. Disgwylir y bydd y canllawiau ar gael ar ôl Medi 1.

Safbwynt NAHT Cymru ar orchuddion wyneb

Mae NAHT wedi bod yn glir gyda’r llywodraeth, os yw’r dystiolaeth wyddonol yn argymell defnyddio gorchuddion wyneb mewn ysgolion, fod hyn yn rhywbeth y byddem yn ei gefnogi. Fodd bynnag, nid ydym yn gefnogol i safbwynt y llywodraeth y dylai fod disgwyl i ysgolion unigol ac ALlau benderfynu a oes angen gorchuddion wyneb ai peidio.  Mae hwnnw'n benderfyniad y dylid ei wneud ar lefel llywodraeth i sicrhau cysondeb ledled Cymru.  Nid ydym yn derbyn esgus y llywodraeth mai arweinwyr ysgolion sy’n adnabod eu hysgolion orau.  Nid yw arweinwyr ysgol yn arbenigwyr meddygol ac ni ellir disgwyl iddynt wneud penderfyniadau o'r maint hwn. Er bod y datganiad hwnnw'n wir, mae'n annerbyniol disgwyl i benaethiaid ysgwyddo baich y cyfrifoldeb hwnnw, o ystyried nad oes ganddynt yr arbenigedd o ran effeithiolrwydd gorchuddion wyneb. O ran mesurau amddiffynnol, yr hyn sydd ei angen ar arweinwyr ysgolion yw eglurder llwyr, nid yr hawl i ddewis. O’r herwydd, byddwn yn parhau i lobïo'r llywodraeth i wneud penderfyniad clir a diamwys ar y mater hwn ac ailystyried gwneud datganiad sy’n berthnasol i Gymru gyfan.

Cyngor i arweinwyr ysgol

Yn y cyfamser, cyngor NAHT yw y byddai'n ddoeth i ysgolion uwchradd ofyn i ddisgyblion a staff wisgo gorchuddion wyneb mewn coridorau ac ardaloedd cymunedol oni bai bod rheswm da dros beidio â gwneud hynny. Byddai’n ddoeth felly bod efallai’n or-ofalus, o ystyried y wybodaeth sy'n dod gan Sefydliad Iechyd y Byd.

O safbwynt ymarferol, rydym yn argymell rhoi gwybod i gadeirydd eich llywodraethwyr a’ch awdurdod lleol ynghylch beth fydd eich cynlluniau ar gyfer gwisgo gorchuddion wyneb, er mwyn sicrhau bod pawb yn gytûn yn hyn o beth, gan fod potensial i rai rhieni a disgyblion wrthwynebu eich safbwynt.  Rydym hefyd yn argymell eich bod yn datblygu cynllun ar gyfer mynegi hyn i rieni, disgyblion a staff er mwyn sicrhau bod yr ymagwedd yn glir.  Efallai y byddwch hefyd am ystyried rhoi polisi ar waith sy'n mynd i'r afael â materion fel y camau a gymerir os na fydd disgyblion yn dod â gorchudd wyneb i'r ysgol gyda nhw neu'n gwrthod ei wisgo.  Dylid hefyd ystyried plant sydd wedi'u heithrio rhag gwisgo gorchuddion wyneb oherwydd anghenion unigryw - bydd angen ymdrin â hyn yn sensitif a dylid ystyried y mater cyn gwneud y defnydd o orchuddion wyneb yn ofynnol lle bo hynny'n bosibl.  Byddai hefyd yn ddefnyddiol ystyried a oes gan unrhyw ddisgyblion neu staff anghenion penodol y gellid effeithio arnynt oherwydd bod y rhai o'u cwmpas yn gwisgo gorchuddion wyneb, er enghraifft, disgyblion byddar a / neu staff sy’n darllen gwefusau neu ddibynnu'n rhannol ar ddarllen gwefusau.  Pa gamau y gellir eu cymryd i leihau'r anawsterau a achosir i'r unigolion hyn trwy ddefnyddio gorchuddion wyneb?

Staff a disgyblion 11 oed mewn ysgolion cynradd

Ar hyn o bryd nid oes unrhyw ganllawiau penodol yn ymwneud ag ysgolion cynradd a’r defnydd o orchuddion wyneb.  Hyd yn hyn nid yw Llywodraeth Cymru wedi cymeradwyo'r defnydd cyffredinol o orchuddion wyneb gan oedolion mewn ysgolion ond mae llawer o ysgolion ac awdurdodau lleol wedi gwneud eu penderfyniadau eu hunain ar ôl siarad â'u staff a'r undebau llafur. 

Fel y dywedwyd eisoes, safbwynt NAHT yw ei bod yn annhebygol y byddai gwahardd staff rhag gwisgo gorchuddion wyneb yn ymarferol gan fod lleoliadau, darpariaeth mewn ysgolion a’r tasgau sy’n ofynnol yn amrywio o un lleoliad i’r llall, hyd yn oed o fewn un awdurdod lleol.

Yn bwysicaf oll, mae gan bob ysgol ddyletswydd gofal i'w staff, ac mae hyn yn ymestyn i'w hiechyd meddwl a'u llesiant.

Os oes unrhyw aelod staff mewn ysgol yn mynd i deimlo'n dawel eu meddwl ac yn fwy hyderus wrth ddychwelyd i ysgol sydd wedi'i hailagor yn llawn trwy gael caniatâd i wisgo gorchuddion wyneb priodol, mae gan arweinwyr ysgolion yr awdurdod a'r hyblygrwydd o hyd o fewn canllawiau presennol y llywodraeth i ganiatáu i hyn ddigwydd. Bydd angen i ysgolion hefyd ystyried gallu'r aelod staff i wneud eu gwaith gyda phlant a phobl ifanc yn effeithiol, yn enwedig yn achos disgyblion â nam ar eu clyw neu eu cyfathrebu.

Bydd hefyd yn bwysig atgoffa'r aelodau staff hynny ynghylch sut y dylid defnyddio gorchuddion wyneb yn ddiogel.  Rydym yn cael ar ddeall y gall Llywodraeth Cymru ddiweddaru eu cyngor o ran staff mewn ysgolion cynradd yn fuan. 

Camau nesaf NAHT Cymru wrth fynd i'r afael â phryderon

Mae NAHT wedi gofyn ystod o gwestiynau i Lywodraeth Cymru yn ymwneud â gorchuddion wyneb yn dilyn y cyhoeddiad hwn. Mae'r rhain yn cynnwys:

  • Beth yw goblygiadau hyn i staff mewn ysgolion cynradd?
  • A oes disgwyl i blant 11 oed mewn ysgolion cynradd gael eu cynnwys mewn asesiadau risg? A beth am blant sy'n 11 yn ystod y flwyddyn academaidd?
  • Sut caiff hyn ei weithredu mewn ysgolion arbennig?
  • A fydd yn rhaid i ysgolion gyflenwi gorchuddion wyneb, nawr bod y llywodraeth wedi nodi'n glir bod yn rhaid iddynt fod yn orchuddion tair haen?
  • Os nad oes rhaid iddyn nhw, pwy fydd yn gyfrifol am reoli ansawdd masgiau?
  • Beth fydd yn digwydd os bydd plentyn yn cyrraedd yr ysgol heb eu gorchudd wyneb ac nad oes gan yr ysgol gyflenwad?
  • Os yw ysgolion am ddarparu gorchuddion i sicrhau cysondeb, pwy fydd yn eu cyflenwi ac yn talu amdanynt?
  • A fydd disgwyl i rieni wisgo gorchuddion wyneb wrth ollwng / casglu plant?

 

Cyn gynted ag y byddwn yn derbyn atebion i'r cwestiynau hyn, byddwn yn diweddaru'r adran Cwestiynau Cyffredin yn unol â hynny.

Ysgolion arbennig

Mae'n bwysig cofio y bydd rhai disgyblion wedi'u heithrio rhag gwisgo gorchuddion wyneb ac mae'n debygol y bydd nifer uwch o ddisgyblion mewn rhai ysgolion arbennig yn perthyn i'r categori hwn. Bydd angen i ysgolion ystyried anghenion unigryw eu disgyblion a chydlynu â rhieni ynghylch y mater sensitif hwn. Mae arweinwyr ysgol yn adnabod eu disgyblion unigol, a nhw sydd yn y sefyllfa orau i wneud penderfyniadau unigol mewn ymgynghoriad â rhieni yn eu lleoliadau.

Rhoi cymorth i ddisgyblion sy'n methu â gwisgo gorchuddion wyneb

Rydym wedi cael ar ddeall bod yna rai deunyddiau y gellir eu defnyddio gyda phlant, pobl ifanc a'u teuluoedd na allant, am nifer o resymau, wisgo gorchuddion wyneb; gallai hyn fod yn arbennig o ddefnyddiol ar gyfer teithiau yn ôl ac ymlaen i'r ysgol neu deithio cyffredinol ar drafnidiaeth gyhoeddus.

I rai, nid yw'n bosibl gwisgo masg oherwydd eu hanabledd neu oherwydd ei fod yn achosi anhawster difrifol iddynt. Dyma ddwy enghraifft o'r rhesymau y mae'r llywodraeth wedi'u nodi ar gyfer eithrio, ac ni ddylid byth fod yn sarhaus tuag at bobl am beidio â gwisgo masg - yn enwedig gan y gall pobl fod ag anabledd cudd.

Mae Mencap wedi creu canllawiau hawdd eu darllen i egluro'r rheolau ac mae Keep Safe wedi argraffu cerdyn eithrio i helpu pobl ag anabledd dysgu i egluro pam nad ydyn nhw'n gwisgo masg.

Mae’n bosib y bydd ysgolion am rannu’r adnoddau hyn gyda'u teuluoedd.

First published 28 August 2020