Commenting on today’s announcement by the Welsh government on plans to ease the Covid-19 safety measures in schools for September, director of school leaders’ union, NAHT Cymru, Laura Doel, said:
“NAHT Cymru has raised concerns about several aspects of the Welsh government’s plans to ease covid-19 safety measures for schools in September.
“Whilst we all want to see an end to restrictions on social distancing in schools as soon a possible, the plan to do away with ‘class bubbles’ but retain a requirement for schools to identify close contacts of pupils is impractical. For self-isolation purposes, schools would be expected to provide intelligence to the contact tracers at Public Health Wales. This would include knowing who they were near in school as well as when being dropped-off and picked up. Welsh government needs to be realistic about what is actually possible here.
“Schools are already operating on the basis that they have grouped children to cause the minimum disruption; for many, there is no in-between measure from where they are now and pre-covid school activity. The proposals, with all the unintended consequences, have the potential to be hugely disruptive. We are utterly confused by the Minister’s statement, which we think could actually increase the number of close contacts rather than reduce them.
“The proposed ending of staggered start and finish times, such as lunches and breaks, is premature and would have an impact on a school’s ability to carry out a host of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), such as enabling staff to clean rooms and equipment with sanitizer. In addition, there’s as yet no clarity on face-coverings among these measures for September.
“The reality is that this halfway house approach could create as many problems as it solves.
“The Welsh government also needs to be realistic about what the data is telling them and the level of protection school staff currently have. The Minister accepts there has been an increase in cases linked to the Delta variant and acknowledges that it may not be until the end of September that all education staff will have had the chance to take up the offer of a second jab.
“The latest figures on covid cases are concerning, and ultimately, decisions across Wales must be based on medical and scientific evidence. It’s vital that schools are supported by local authorities, and that all options stay on the table so that schools can do what's best for their school communities.”
First published 28 June 2021