The contact bubbles that saw massive self-isolation of pupils in Welsh schools ‘end in September’


The Welsh government plans to end contact bubbles and staggered start and end times in schools from September, the information seen by WalesOnline suggests.

A message from the National Association of Heads of School Cymru (NAHT) to its members, seen by WalesOnline, outlines the plans of the Welsh government after Education Minister Jeremy Miles announced changes last Monday but failed to given no real details.

Contact bubbles have been criticized for leading to mass isolation of students after a single case. Critics say groups of an entire year are sent home when not all were necessarily in close contact with a confirmed case. You can read more about it here.

Read more : School Covid cases jump to levels not seen since closing early for Christmas

School leaders fear that the end of contact groups (usually a school year or class) could expose them to legal action if they are responsible for tracing contacts without easily identifiable contact groups. It would also create a tremendous amount of work for schools trying to determine who a case has come into contact with, the chiefs said.

The message from NAHT Director Laura Doel says their concerns have been raised with Mr. Miles, but “appear to have fallen on deaf ears.”

Yesterday July 2, the Welsh government announced that contact groups would no longer be needed in daycares and places of play, including after-school clubs, from July 19, but gave no word on schools.

Education Minister Jeremy Miles

And earlier in the week on Monday, the minister said that starting in September, individual schools will decide on necessary mitigation measures based on the local situation with the coronavirus, but did not specify what criteria would be used. to assess the risks or who would ultimately be responsible.

Closed-door discussions between the Welsh government, unions and school leaders‘ representatives took place this week, but the Welsh government declined to give more details on what schools would look like in the next term at this point .

Some of these details have now appeared in the post from NAHT Director Laura Doel, not made public by NAHT but seen by WalesOnline.

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Ms Doel’s message read: ‘The advice from the Welsh Government is that contact groups are no longer needed in schools and that schools should support the TTP process by providing contact information for tracers on any close contact.

“I wrote to Education Minister Jeremy Miles, met with his officials several times this week, and explained explicitly why we think it is unreasonable to ask schools to provide this level of detail on close contacts, when ‘There is no way to do that. Accurately report this information if the contact groups are no longer functioning.

She advised schools to carry out any risk assessment and sign it off in conjunction with their local education authority “with the aim of providing additional protection to schools”.

His message continues: “In an effort to provide you with additional protection, I wrote to the Minister again today (here), asking him to compensate principals against any threat of action against them. if, through no fault on their part, own, did not provide information about close contacts in schools, which then led to a legal challenge against them.

“If the government is convinced that the advice on providing what appears to be a ‘best estimate’ of close contacts is good enough, they should be prepared to stand with school leaders if there is any repercussions. . “

On staggered start and end times (introduced to avoid overcrowding during the pandemic), she said the Welsh government has acted within its powers and unless schools decide to appeal to the minister, they are expected to revert to pre-pandemic start and end times from September.

“As we have stated throughout the pandemic, the ultimate decision as to whether school sites – partially or fully open or closed, rests with the governing bodies of schools. If, following a risk assessment and in collaboration with your governing body, you need to restrict the opening or operation of your school, you must notify the local authority and adhere to the risk assessment of your school.

Due to the changes, school staff could try to pretend it was illegal to put them to work and be at risk, but the law on this is unclear and principals should contact the NAHT if they did, Ms. Doel added.

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Ms Doel’s post also suggests that the councils are worried about the Welsh government’s plans. He adds: ‘On Tuesday I wrote to all education directors in Wales asking for their views on the proposed changes, and many responded saying they shared the same concerns. I am committed to working with our elected officials to provide support to schools in conjunction with local authorities.

“It seems that our concerns have fallen on deaf ears, which is extremely disappointing, given the strength of sentiment from all sections of the profession. NAHT Cymru will continue to pressure the Welsh government on this issue, urging it to reconsider what we believe to be an unrealistic and unfair burden on school leaders to comply with ill-conceived and premature changes in guidance.

“We are united in our goal of keeping as many learners in school as safe as possible, but the health and safety of learners and school staff must remain our top priority.”

A Welsh government spokeswoman said: ‘The minister outlined at Monday’s press conference our plans for national frameworks that will allow the escalation and de-escalation of Covid measures depending on local circumstances. Discussions are underway on these proposals.


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