Coronavirus (COVID-19) Latest Education Information

January Term 2021 & Childcare Provision for Critical Workers & Vulnerable Pupils

Blaenau Gwent Council schools will continue to deliver a remote learning model until 29th January 2021, following confirmation from the Welsh Government that this would apply across Wales. 

As an essential, and where no other childcare options are available, the Council is providing childcare provision for critical workers; vulnerable pupils and pupils with a Statement of SEN. Applications for provision that commenced on Monday, 18th January have now closed.

Should the remote learning period be extended you will not need to re-apply and will be contacted directly.

This provision is intended only where there are no other alternative arrangements that are possible. Provision will be based on availability of places within your child/children’s school, with due regard given to staffing and remote learning requirements. Therefore, places are not guaranteed.

The hours of the provision for eligible pupils is 8.30am to 3.30pm, with exception of nursery pupils where the hours for will be in line with your child/children’s current nursery session times.

We only considered placement for the children of critical workers (as defined by Welsh Government), in the following circumstances:

• where there are no other childcare options available to facilitate critical workers attending their place of work;
• where parents/carers are unable to work from home, and must attend their place of work as a critical worker; and,
• if your child/children are currently in one of the following year groups - Nursery to Year 9 (up to 14 years only)

Your child/children should not access this provision if they are:

• A confirmed case of COVID-19
• Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
• Living with a confirmed case of COVID-19
• Identified as a contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19
• Living with someone with symptoms of COVID-19 and who is awaiting a test result

All parents/cares will have to provide their child with a packed lunch, as no catering provision will be available. However, free school meal direct payments will continue for eligible families who have been approved. There will be no school transport provision available throughout this period.

School uniform will need to be worn.

Arrangements for Welsh qualifications 2021 (Update 20/01/2021)

Changes to qualifications have been confirmed by Education Minister Kirsty Williams following further disruption to learning.

Learners in Wales studying for Qualifications Wales approved GCSE, AS and A Levels this year will receive grades determined by their school or college, based on work they have completed over their course.

This policy decision was confirmed by Education Minister Kirsty Williams on Wednesday, 20th January 2021 following further disruption to face-to-face learning caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement followed recommendations from the design and delivery advisory group that is made up of head teachers and college leaders.

The group was established in December by the Minister to ‘support wellbeing, fairness and progression’ for learners taking exams this year.

Cllr Joanne Collins, Executive Member for Education in Blaenau Gwent, says:

‘I welcome today’s announcement by the Education Minister and the clarity this now brings for all our learners studying for GCSEs, AS, A level and vocational qualifications in Blaenau Gwent.

The well-being of all learners is our key priority at a time when are trying to minimise the disruption to normal school life forced upon us by the Covid-19 pandemic. I feel that the approach detailed today by Welsh Government is fair for all learners and they can work hard for the next few months with confidence that there is now a consistent national approach to qualifications in place.’

https://gov.wales/changes-qualifications-confirmed-education-minister-kirsty-williams-following-further-disruption

Earlier Updates:

Education Minister Kirsty Williams provided further details of how the system put in place to replace examinations for general qualifications in 2021 will work back in December.

The approach will ensure that teachers can design and plan teaching, learning around assessments in a flexible way to promote learners’ wellbeing and support their needs.

The Minister has confirmed her intention is for general qualifications in Wales to be supported by a three pillar approach made up of:

  • Non-examination assessments
  • Internal assessments
  • Assessments that are externally set and marked

The decision has been supported by the news that the Welsh Government is investing an additional £1.9 million in education resources to support learners in years 12 and 13 in preparing for their A Level assessments.

To read the Minister's statement go to - https://gov.wales/education-minister-kirsty-williams-provides-further-clarity-system-replace-exams-general

Operating Schools around Coronavirus

We continue to work closely with schools to safely and effectively provide learning for our children and young people.  

Schools participate in the Test Trace Protect system which means that learner groups and school staff are sometimes required to self-isolate where a case is confirmed within their learner group.

The following are currently self-isolating: 

Date

School

Action Taken

In all instances of confirmed cases amongst a learner group, parents of those children needing to self-isolate will be contacted directly by their school and updates will also be posted on our website and social media channels. Arrangements remain in place for remote learning, and schools will issue more information on this to families affected.

Remember - only the pupil is required to self-isolate as a precaution, family members and siblings do not need to stay at home, unless symptoms develop.

Procedures are already in place within all Blaenau Gwent schools to limit group numbers and pupil contact, coupled with enhanced cleaning regimes. There is no need for anyone who has not been contacted to self-isolate or be unduly concerned.

You can find more advice about self-isolation at - https://gov.wales/self-isolation-stay-home-guidance-households-possible-coronavirus

All residents are encouraged to remain alert to Covid-19 and continue to follow the latest national guidance to help combat the spread of the virus.

School staff remain vigilant to pupils displaying any symptoms, and are ready to take appropriate action. Parents, carers and guardians can support this by remaining alert and ensuring that children do not attend school if they develop any potential symptoms, however mild.

Should require information on childcare available within your area, along with more information on applying for childcare places, please contact the Family Information Service on 08000 323339. Please be advised that childcare providers will only allocate places to children that are not symptomatic or self-isolating.

Covid Secure Schools

Each school will differ in terms of layout and arrangements for its learners, so please make sure that you look out for updates from your child’s school for the latest information.

We have worked with schools to agree a number of key principles for the whole school re-opening. These include:

• All schools have a Covid Secure Risk Assessment in place

• There is full flexibility for staggered start and finish times to allow for social distancing – look out for details on this from your school

• Full risk assessments for members of staff where necessary in line with official guidance

• All schools will participate in the Welsh Government’s official Test Trace Protect Strategy which tracks cases of Covid-19 in the community and schools will communicate the importance of this. Schools will be keeping appropriate records to share with trained contact tracers if required

• If your child or anyone in the household has symptoms of Covid-19 please DO NOT send them to school and arrange for a free test through the Government’s Test Trace Protect (TTP) system - https://phw.nhs.wales/topics/latest-information-on-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/guidance-accordion/test-trace-protect-coronavirus/

• Recognised symptoms are:

- A high temperature
- A new continuous cough
- A loss of taste or smell

• If your child develops recognised symptoms whilst at school, they will be isolated appropriately and you will be asked to pick them up immediately. Please make sure your school has your up to date emergency contacts

• Any positive cases identified in our schools will be managed through Public Health Wales’ robust procedures, in partnership with the Council and the school, and parents will be communicated with as necessary.

• School attendance is compulsory and whilst the expectation from Welsh Government is that no fixed penalty notices will be issued for the first half-term the legislation has not changed. It is vitally important for children and young people to attend school to make learning progress to realise their full potential. In partnership, we will work with parents and schools to improve school attendance and the position on penalty notices will be reviewed after the first half-term. We will work with parents and schools over any concerns.

• Parents/carers must not attend at a school (other than dropping or picking up children) without a pre-arranged appointment & should not gather or linger at the school entrance/exit

• Catering will be provided on site for those who want it. This could be cooked meals or a packed lunch style, your school will let you know more. Where possible pupils will remain with their learner groups for meal/snack times

• Breakfast clubs will not operate for the remainder of 2020. This will be reviewed for the start of 2021

• Pupils will stay in learner groups or bubbles as much as possible. For younger pupils this is likely to be in classes but the groups may be larger at secondary, such as year groups, in order to deliver the curriculum effectively. Social distancing will be implemented as recommended by the guidance. Older pupils will be required to observe the distancing measures, but it is recognised that this is not always easy with younger pupils and these will be allowed to mix within their class. Staff will continue to minimise their contact as much as possible

• There will be exceptions to this for our most vulnerable learners at our special school and these will be subject to full risk assessments

• Frequent hand washing and sanitising will be robustly built into school routines

• Schools will be cleaned in line with the current Welsh Government guidance, with a particular focus on touchpoints, equipment, toilets and highly frequented areas

• Personal Protective Equipment will only be used in accordance with current Welsh Government guidance for example in delivering personal care where appropriate (please see links below)

• Dedicated Home to School Transport will be available for those eligible. Buses will be regularly cleaned and sanitiser available for those on board. Drivers and escorts will maintain social distancing by use of screens and/or use of PPE if required by a risk assessment. Records of those travelling will be routinely kept for TTP purposes. Pupils must adhere to the rules of travel including wearing face coverings on secondary school transport. There is a zero tolerance policy for those who do not abide by the rules and/or exhibit poor behaviour during a journey. If a Secondary pupil removes their covering without out a medical or health exemption, they will be removed from the transport immediately and operators have the right to exclude pupils and refuse transport for 5 days pending a review by Transport, Education and the School

The use of face coverings in school settings

In many cases, home to school transport provision will be close to full capacity. It is recognised that the highest level of risk is associated with secondary aged and special school pupils. Therefore, provided that it does not interfere with any medical conditions, it will be requirement for these pupils to wear face coverings whilst travelling.

This will be in addition to the current range of control measures which we have in place, as detailed within the local Schools Reopening Guidance.

Whilst the risks are significantly lower for primary aged pupils, this group will be encouraged to wear face coverings, as a form of good practice.

Parents will need to supply the necessary face coverings for their child/children. However, it is accepted that there may be issues in terms of access and instances where face coverings are lost for example and we will provide single use masks on all transport for use on an exception basis.

Schools will provide further guidance including the need for a bag to keep reusable face coverings in, in order to manage infection control risks and single use coverings will need to be disposed of correctly.

Use of Face Coverings in School settings - we are now working with schools to encourage the wearing of coverings in secondary school communal areas where distancing cannot be maintained. We are looking to supply pupils with reusable coverings but at this point in time they will need to be supplied by a parent/carer.

This is subject to regular and ongoing review  in line with Welsh Government guidance and a dynamic risk assessment process.

https://gov.wales/technical-advisory-group-face-coverings-children-and-young-people-education-settings

Please note - parents/carers are also now required to wear a face covering around the school building when picking up and collecting their child. Thank you.

Free School Meals

We continue to make Direct Payments to those eligible families during the periods of school closures. To find out more about the eligibility for Free School Meals go to - https://www.blaenau-gwent.gov.uk/en/resident/housing-benefit-dhp/welfare-reform/free-school-meals-clothing-grants/

You can find contact details for all schools in Blaenau Gwent here

• https://www.blaenau-gwent.gov.uk/fileadmin/documents/Resident/Schools_and_Learning/Admissions_2019/Schools_Contact_List.pdf

Latest Welsh Government Information:

To keep up to date with the latest information on Education and Coronavirus (COVID-19) please follow the link to the Welsh Government website below: 

https://gov.wales/education-coronavirus


      

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