What will schools be like when they reopen at the end of June in Wales?

The Welsh Government has published guidance outlining how schools should operate when they begin to reopen from June 29th.

Schools across Wales have been closed since the outbreak of coronavirus in March, though some have remained opened to care for the children of key workers.

Under the new guidelines, it's suggested that no more than a third of pupils should be present at school at any one time in order to maintain social distancing, which means things are likely to feel quite different from before.

Here's a summary of what can be expected when children begin returning to classrooms.

  • Hygiene

The Welsh Government says staff and pupils must be able to wash their hands regularly, and for at least 20 seconds at a time. Hand washing should happen on arrival, after handling food, after handling objects or equipment that may have been touched by others, after any physical contact, or after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing.

Hand washing with soap and water should be prioritised over hand sanitiser, says the guidance, and windows should be kept open in classrooms as much as possible to ensure fresh air is circulating.

In addition, schools must be cleaned regularly with special attention given to "high-touch" areas like door handles. Rooms should be cleaned whenever a different group uses the room.

  • Capacity

In order to maintain social distancing between pupils and staff, the Welsh Government says it expects that - at most - just one third of pupils will be present at school at any one time.

Schools will need to consider for themselves how this is managed, for example, allowing a third of pupils to attend for a total of one week over a three-week cycle.

The Welsh Government says it expects that most pupils should be able to attend school on three occasions before the summer holidays, but says in some cases it may be more.

Credit: PA
  • Social distancing

All schools will be required to ensure that social distancing - meaning maintaining a 2m distance from others - can be achieved.

Where possible, schools will be asked to ensure that the same staff interact with the same groups of students over time, to try to reduce the number of people both staff and students are coming into contact with.

The Welsh Government says it recognises that in primary schools, maintaining social distancing may not be possible, but says staff should do their best to "ensure some distancing" between pupils. It suggests primary schools may also wish to consider allowing small, consistent groups of no more than eight pupils to mix.

The guidance suggests that pupils should try to remain in one classroom as much as possible, rather than moving from room to room, and says wherever possible lessons should be given outdoors.

  • Lunchtimes

The guidance suggests that in order to keep movement between rooms to a minimum, meals may be best eaten in classrooms. Any use of dining rooms should be staggered and cleaned thoroughly after eating.

  • Symptom checking

The guidance suggests screening for high temperatures is not necessary, as it will not identify all cases of COVID-19 and the means of checking temperature "may put staff at greater risk of transmission", though this will be kept under review.

But the guidance says schools should have clear procedures if pupils or staff begin to show symptoms on site. Those showing symptoms should be kept separate until they can be collected and taken home. Ideally, this should be in a separate room, supervised at a distance of two metres.

Anyone displaying symptoms should stay at home for 7 days and should arrange to be tested. Anyone who lives with someone displaying symptoms but remains well should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person became ill.

  • Shielding / vulnerable

The guidance says that if a pupil or staff member lives in a household with someone who is vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, they should only attend a school or setting where they can adhere to social distancing.

This may not be possible for very young children and older children without the capacity to adhere to the instructions on social distancing. In those instances, the Welsh Government says it does not expect those children to attend and they should be supported to learn at home.

To read the full Welsh Government guidance, which was published today, click here.