Welsh schools to be able to decide Covid rules from September, education minister announces

The education minister said a more "localised approach" will be taken from September rather than all schools having to follow national guidance Credit: PA

Schools across Wales and local councils will be able to make decisions around Covid rules including mask-wearing and self-isolation, the Welsh Government has announced.

In a press conference on Monday, Education Minister Jeremy Miles said one of the major challenges facing schools and colleges was the "disproportionate number" of students having to self-isolate and added, "As we move through the pandemic there will be a need to move to a more localised approach, rather than a blanket approach.

He said rather than schools having to follow national guidance, they will be able to "escalate and de-escalate interventions based on risk."

His comments were met with criticism from the Welsh Conservatives who accused Mr Miles of "passing the buck for decision-making onto staff."

Shadow education minister, Laura Anne Jones said, “We can’t afford for whole communities to be left behind thanks to a postcode lottery in education provision, and Labour ministers need to show leadership on this issue, and not pass the buck and responsibility for decision-making on to staff and schools that are already under enormous pressure.”

"These changes do not mean a wholesale removal of mitigating measures, but are about our schools, colleges and universities being able to make decisions based on the balance of harms and minimising disruption to learning", he added.

The Welsh Government was also looking at removing the staggering of the school day for learners, the education minister said.

Jeremy Miles told a press conference, "While class or year 'bubbles' have played an important role over the last year, we need to ensure that settings distinguish between 'bubbles' on the one hand, and personal contact with cases on the other. 

All education staff would be offered a second dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of September, Mr Miles said.

The education minister said one of the challenges was the "disproportionate number" of students having to self-isolate Credit: PA

Commenting on the announcement Eithne Hughes, Director of teaching union ASCL Cymru, said, “The very last thing any school leader wants to do is to now have learners lose any more time in the classroom following the significant disruption to education they have experienced over the course of the last 16 months.

“Schools take their responsibilities very seriously and are not trigger-happy when dealing with issues where learners have been in close contact with positive Covid cases. They are following the advice and safe practice guidelines from the experts at the Test, Track and Protect team and Public Health Wales to the letter."

Meanwhile, Public Health Wales data published on Monday revealed there have been another 670 confirmed coronavirus cases although no new deaths have been recorded in the latest period.

Data published on Mondays covers a 48-hour period so numbers are often likely to be higher.

Wales currently has the lowest rate of coronavirus infections per head in the UK, the Education Minister also said at Monday's briefing.

The Education Minister said he wanted measures to help minimise disruption to learners

Last week it was confirmed that school inspections in Wales would remain suspended for the remainder of the year, in a bid to ease the pressure on education staff and learners.

The suspension of Estyn inspections in schools in Wales has been extended to include the Autumn term with a "new approach" to inspections being piloted in 2022.

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