Written statement: Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language

Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language

As announced earlier today, the Welsh Government’s latest 21-day review concluded that protections will be gradually eased if we continue to see improvements in the public health situation.

As noted in my January 25 statement, I am confirming today that schools will resume using the Local Infection Control Decision-Making Framework by the start of the new semester on February 28.

The national framework sets clear guidelines for schools to adapt interventions to local circumstances. Schools will be supported by public health officials and local authorities to ensure measures are appropriate and evidence-based.

The framework also includes basic measures that should be in place regardless of the level of risk.

As part of our careful, phased and planned approach to easing restrictions so we can prioritize learning, schools should note the following key points when planning for the new semester.

  • We strongly advise school and daycare staff, as well as secondary school learners, to use the LFD tests twice a week. This advisory does not impact arrangements for people identified as contacts of positive cases (who are advised to use LFTs every day for 7 days) or those with symptoms (who should self -isolate and organize a PCR test as soon as possible).
  • Staff working in special schools are still strongly advised to take an LFD test every day before going to work. We also plan to reduce this level of testing over the next half year, but this will be done in a phased manner and will take into account the unique circumstances of this industry.
  • From February 28, all schools must implement guidance on the use of face coverings for the “high” risk level as a minimum as outlined in the framework. This means that face coverings will no longer be routinely recommended in classrooms. Face coverings should, however, be worn by secondary learners, staff and visitors to all schools when moving through indoor common areas outside of the classroom, such as hallways, where the physical distance cannot be maintained. Schools that, based on their local context and guidance, must operate at the “very high” risk level may continue to recommend that face coverings be used in classrooms by secondary school staff and learners.
  • Regulations regarding school session times have been temporarily removed from early January to allow schools to make changes to their school session times. This ends on February 18 and schools are to resume their usual arrangements when learners return after the mid-term break.

The framework has been updated and released today to reflect these changes. Schools should use the next week to plan and implement changes to operational arrangements and ensure that learners and their parents/guardians, as well as staff members, are clear about these changes for the return after the break mid-term. We will continue to review our advice regularly.

Once again, I thank everyone in the education community for all they continue to do to maximize learning and minimize disruption.

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Sylvester L. Goldfarb