Letter regarding education announcement
My letter to constituents in response to today’s announcement regarding schools, colleges and childcare.
“CHECK IN, CATCH UP AND PREPARE”
Announcement about Schools, Colleges and Childcare in Wales
Thank you for contacting me about the announcement regarding schools etc in Wales.
The Welsh Government intend that all children will have the opportunity to “Check in, Catch Up, Prepare for summer and September in Wales. The announcement aims to provide time for schools to make preparations but the Minister has stated she will continue to monitor the situation with the virus as the dates approach.
The Timeline for re-opening
It is proposed that all schools will start the next phase on the 29th June, with the term extended by a week, therefore ending on 27th July. This will be your child’s home school, and not in a hub.
In the next academic year, beginning in September, the intention is that the autumn half-term break will be expanded to two weeks.
In each school there will be a phased approach and the local education authority and schools will lead on this. Head Teachers will be making contact with parents to establish which children will be taking up the opportunity to “Check in” at the school. This is part of the local planning for the level of demand and the associated practical arrangements in schools.
Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.
There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience, getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.
The Minister does not expect those children who have been asked to shield to take up the “Check in” opportunity at school but to be provided with other options (e.g. digital).
Likewise for parents who are shielding they will need to make a choice if they want their children to check in at school, or in another way. This can be discussed with the school.
The Welsh Government will publish further guidance to support schools, as well as further and higher education institutions. This will include information on managing their facilities and logistical arrangements, including buildings, resources, cleaning and transport.
The Welsh Government has also today published a paper from its COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, representing the latest understanding of the virus with respect to children and education.
Further Education colleges are ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15th June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners. This follows close working with Government and the joint trade unions.
Guidance for childcare providers will also be published in the next week, supporting them to increase the numbers of children in attendance alongside schools.
The Education Minister Kirsty Williams said:
“My announcement today (3rd June) gives schools three and a half weeks to continue preparing for the next phase.
“We will use the last weeks of the summer term to make sure pupils, staff and parents are prepared – mentally, emotionally and practically – for the new normal in September.
“29th of June means that there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect, which will continue to expand. I can also announce that teachers will be a priority group in our new antibody-testing programme. As we continue to keep Wales safe, this approach will be critical.
“The evolving science suggests that warm weather and sunlight gives us the best opportunity to ensure more time in school. Waiting until September would mean almost half a year without schooling. That would be to the detriment to the wellbeing, learning progress and mental health of our young people.
“This is and has been a worrying period for us all. I know that many will feel apprehensive. We have not rushed this work and this decision.
“The three and a half week period before the next phase also gives us time to keep watch on developments elsewhere and provides further check-points to review evidence and the roll-out of testing.
“This is the best practical option that meets my five principles which underpin my decision making.
“Working together we will secure equity and excellence for pupils as they check in, catch up, and prepare for summer and September.”
Dawn Bowden MS