Eithne Hughes, Director of ASCL Cymru, comments on the Welsh government’s announcement that Covid measures in schools will be relaxed, effective from 9 May.
“While the Welsh government’s intended direction of travel on relaxing Covid protection measures has been clear for a few weeks now, school leaders will be dismayed to have received a letter today outlining the changes that will be brought into effect in less than a week's time. There has been no prior warning that these changes would take effect so quickly.
“We hope that the Welsh government will not just take already published guidance for workplace settings and rewrite it for educational settings, as there are very clearly major differences between these environments.
“The Education Minister has meanwhile made a statement, before the new guidance is even ready to be published, which sets an expectation that school leaders will prepare to implement a range of measures.
“Schools need their own dedicated guidance that also recognises there is a shared responsibility with local authorities, which have a key role to play moving forward. This is glaringly omitted from the letter sent to schools today.
“The Education Minister has further stated that schools should revert back to the pre-Covid policy on the issue of fixed penalty notices, to be used as a last resort in cases of unexplained absence.
“Estyn’s former Chief Inspector has today published his long-awaited report into this complex issue, which often involves societal issues linked to deprivation and poverty. Interestingly his report recommends that further research is needed on the efficacy of fixed penalty notices after he found a diverse opinion on the subject among school leaders.
“The Welsh government’s announcement seems at odds with this finding and everyone involved in education in Wales will need time to read and consider this report and the conclusions drawn in order to understand it.”