ASCL Cymru comment on Welsh government's Covid advice to schools

16/12/2021
Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, comments on the Education Minister’s advice to schools, announcing new measures for the spring term in response to Covid-19.
 
Commenting on the Education Minister’s advice to schools, announcing new measures for the spring term in response to Covid-19, Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said:

“We are disappointed that the Welsh government feels it is still appropriate to rely on the same flimsy framework of Covid protection measures that have proved to be wholly inadequate throughout the autumn term.

“The Education Minister’s letter to schools has thrown leaders across Wales into confusion and effectively handed them the responsibility for deciding what they should do to keep their learners and staff safe.

“Essentially, they are being asked to prepare for all contingencies in a couple of planning days at the start of next term. This simply isn’t good enough and leaders need absolute clarity and clear guidance from the Welsh government on what they need to do.

“Schools continue to experience atrocious levels of absence among both students and staff and the UK’s Chief Medical Officer warned only last night that the Omicron variant is moving at a phenomenal rate and poses a very serious threat.

“Schools will be relieved by the decision that learners should continue to wear face coverings both in the classroom and communal areas and that they can operate staggered start and finish times to the school day, but will get precious little comfort from the other measures announced by the government.

“The assertion that learners should continue lateral flow testing three times a week both before they return to school in January and each week during term time will have little effect unless the government intends to reinforce the importance of this happening with a public health campaign.

“The latest grim attendance statistics show ​that many schools and colleges are already in a period of significant disruption, with not one year group in Wales achieving 90 per cent attendance. The figures are particularly poor among the students who will take their A-levels in the summer, with less than three-quarters of them in the classroom.

“A significant number of these students, as well as those in Year 11, face exams during January and schools will be concerned about making the environment safe for them to take place and that they can be fair for learners. They will be hugely concerned by the amount of learning that students have missed amid the lockdowns and considerable disruption during both the summer and autumn terms.

“With the Omicron variant potentially making the situation worse, schools across Wales need to ​have clear and consistent messaging from the Welsh government as well as a more robust framework that is fit for purpose and offers them the measures and reassurance they need.”