All pupils are expected to have the opportunity to attend school at least three times before the end of term when they re-open on June 29, the Welsh Government said in guidance published on Wednesday.
But it will be more of a check-in than catching up on work missed and social distancing will not be possible at all times in primary schools, the document on how schools should re-open admits.
As the guidance was published, one teaching union called on the Welsh Government to re-think its plans, saying it is too early to open schools.
No more than one in three pupils are expected in school at one time.
“It is our expectation that in most schools pupils would have the opportunity to attend school on three occasions before the summer holidays, however in some schools it may be more,” the document says.
On social distancing the guidance admits: “In primary schools, we recognise that it is not practicable to expect learners to maintain consistent social distancing of two metres.
“Staff should however seek to ensure some distancing between learners. This is based on medical advice and evidence which suggests that the risk of infection and transmission for children is likely to be lower. Practitioners should recognise that younger learners will not be able to maintain social distancing at all times.”
At Wednesday’s Welsh Government press conference, economy minister Ken Skates has set out the timetable through which the Welsh Government is hoping to reopen the economy – including hinting that non-retail shops could open on June 22.
The deaths of nine more people with Covid-19 were reported in Wales on Wednesday but the number of new infections rose by only 38
The guidance for schools is divided into two sections – how to operate in the pandemic and learning.
* Physical, mental and emotional health top priority
* Teachers to get pupils “learning ready” rather than catch up
* Focus on learning outdoors and learning through play
* Not “business as usual” and teachers should design classes to support learning at home and school
* Assessments, such as key stage assessments halted
* Where assessment is used, it should be only used to “help learners progress in a supportive way”
* Schools must not run two curriculums for in and out of school learning as this will confuse pupils
* Schools should begin to widen learning and teaching. This should include supporting transition so that as far as possible learners are ready for the next academic year
The guidance advises “bubbles” of around eight pupils spending the time they are in school together with staggered break, arrival and departure times and strict hygiene guidelines, including regular cleaning and hand washing and PPE for staff when needed.
Mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of pupils should be the priority when schools do re-open in Wales on June 29, the documents states.
On health and safety it lays out guidance on matters including PPE, schooltransport, cleaning, what to do if someone displays symptoms.
It says no one should attend if they or someone they live with are showing identified Covid-19 symptoms, have tested positive to Covid-19 in the past 14 days or are in a vulnerable category and have had a shielding letter.
On learning, the guidance says “blended” home and school learning will continue into next term and pupils should be prepared for that.
Schools should begin to widen learning and teaching when they return but teacher-pupil relationships will need to be re-established.
“After many weeks without face-to-face peer interaction, being allowed into school but made to remain two metres away from friends could be difficult and upsetting for many learners,” the guidance advises.
Teachers should not attempt to “cover” or “catch up” on all they would have done in the time schools have been closed.
They will not be expected to do key stage assessments or gather data about outcomes of such assessments. Instead they should “focus on supporting each individual learner to take their learning forward while continuing to work in an unfamiliar context”.
But the guidance adds: “In addition to the emphasis on well-being, schools should as appropriate, begin to widen learning and teaching.
“This should include supporting transition so that as far as possible learners are ready for the next academic year.
“This guidance on learning is meant to be light touch, recognising that schools will have limited time before the summer holidays.
“Practitioners should not attempt to ‘cover’ or ‘catch up’ on all that the activity they would have done in the time that learners were away from settings. This is not expected of them and should not be the focus of learning during this time.”
Health and hygiene
The guidance advises everyone washes their hands on arrival and leaving school,before and after handling food, before and after handling objects and equipment used by others, where there has been any physical contact and after people blow their nose, sneeze or cough.
Handling of objects between individuals, including staff, parents/carers and learners, should be minimised.
Anyone showing symptoms should be kept separate until they can be collected and taken home.
Temperature, testing and masks
The document says present advice is that it is not necessary to screen temperatures but this is under review.
It does not state masks must be worn but refers to Welsh Government guidance this week that masks should be worn where social distancing is not possible.
What happens if there is an outbreak in a school?
“Experts from across the NHS and local government will work together to prevent ongoing transmission within the school. This will involve identifying those exposed.”
This is what the guidance says on staff PPE
PPE should not be needed except when close contact is necessary.
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.
Gloves and aprons should 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.
Gloves and aprons should be used when cleaning equipment or surfaces that might be contaminated with fluids such as saliva.
Buildings must be cleaned regularly.
Hard surfaces should be cleaned with warm soapy water or the normal cleaning products used.
Particular attention should be given to clean ‘high-touch’ areas and surfaces. These areas should be cleaned at least once a day and more frequently in high use areas, including bathrooms, railings, tables, toys, equipment door handles, push pads, taps and hand sanitiser dispensers.
Rooms should be cleaned when different groups use a room
All rubbish should be removed daily.
Parents and carers should travel with their children to and from school, ideally not in a car.
In any school transport social distancing to be maintained and priority should be given to those who are unable to attend without it.
Publishing the guidance Education Minister Kirsty Wiiliams said:
“We know that such a long period away from school, friends and the classroom will have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing and learning of many young people.
“That is why we have taken the decision that the majority of learners will be able to check in, catch up, and prepare for the summer and September.
“Striking a balance between providing national public health guidance and enabling local flexibility has been critical in the development of this guidance. More detail and support will be developed as detailed plans are worked up by schools and local authorities.
“I am grateful to the headteachers, staff, unions and parents who have already been sharing their plans and proposals. We are working together to ensure that this opportunity is available to the vast majority of pupils and parents in a safe, structured and sensible way.
“As we continue to keep Wales safe, we will continue to develop the guidance over the summer term and into September, while ensuring it reflects the latest medical and scientific advice.
“The health and wellbeing of learners and staff is, as always, our primary concern. Schools, colleges and other settings are working hard to plan for the return of their learners and to put the appropriate safeguards in place. The guidance published today will support them in doing this.”
“We have asked that the decision to reopen for all pupils before the summer be reconsidered.”
One union urged the minister to re-think. Dilwyn Roberts-Young, general secretary of UCAC education union said “We remain seriously concerned about the complexity of the task facing schools in a painfully short period of time, and the high levels of risk involved.
“In order for schools to re-open safely, the Minister has committed herself to five key principles. We do not believe that these guidelines ensure that those key principles are fulfilled, and have asked that the decision to reopen for all pupils before the summer be reconsidered.”
But David Evans, Wales Secretary for the National Education Union Cymru said: “It is well known we would have preferred September for wider opening.
“NEU Cymru welcomes that the Welsh Government has published some guidance for education professionals, ahead of the wider opening of schools at the end of June.
“There is a lot of logistical issues to sort out before the wider opening, and we will be writing to our members with guidance too.”
Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru welcomed the guidance “as a step towards bringing children back into our classrooms in Wales, as safely as possible, from 29 June.”
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT said: “The NASUWT has serious concerns about the lack of clarity in the operational guidance issued to schools by the Welsh Government and whether it will ensure that all schools and local authorities adopt safe working practices.
“The Welsh Government has supported its decision citing the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) paper released on the day of the Minister’s statement. This tells us that ‘social distancing measures are likely not possible for young children’ and that ‘it is not clear whether transmissibility by children is lower than in adults’. Teachers and parents will question how, given the Welsh Governments own scientific advice, it is safe to open on 29 June.
“The Welsh Government must not press ahead with its plans for the wider reopening of schools unless it can demonstrate it is safe to do so.”