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Return to School – FAQs

This guidance is intended to support parents and carers in relation to the operational arrangements of Rhondda Cynon Taf schools. Further information is available at www.gov.wales

These FAQs are informed by Welsh Government guidance at www.gov.wales

View Frequently Asked Questions: -

View Background information regarding the return to school 

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General FAQ's.

 

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View Social Distancing Measures in place in school buildings.

 

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How the school day will run?

 

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Catering arrangements for lunch and snacks.

 

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Details of Exams

 

 

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Measures in place for general illness and COVID-19 cases.

 

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Plans in place for transporting children to school.

 

 

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Details of provision in place for emergency.

 

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Details concerning off-site educational visits. 

General Questions

1. How are risks to children, teachers and families managed?

To prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), schools and other settings use a range of protective measures to create safer environments in which the risk of spreading the virus is substantially reduced.  Whilst such changes may look different in each setting, as they will depend upon individual circumstances, they are all designed to minimise risks to children, staff and their families.

           Approaches schools and other settings are taking include:

  • carrying out risk assessments to directly address risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) so that sensible measures can be put in place to minimise those risks for children, young people and staff
  • making sure that staff, children and young people and others do not attend if they or a member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • undertaking regular hand washing for 20 seconds with running water and soap or use of sanitiser and ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach.
  • re-enforcing the message to pupils and staff of the need to maintain physical distancing where practical to do so
  • use of foot operated / self-closing pedal bins for the disposal of used tissues / sanitiser wipes
  • installing signage throughout the school building to remind all children and staff of the need for frequent hand washing and social (physical) distancing
  • frequent cleaning of regularly touched surfaces, such as door handles, handrails, tabletops, play equipment and toys
  • provision of antibacterial wipes to facilitate regular spot cleaning
  • minimising contact through the creation of contact groups
  • minimising the number of contacts between learners and staff by avoiding large gatherings such as assemblies
  • altering the environment as much as possible, such as changing the layout of classrooms to avoid face to face contact
  • reducing mixing between groups through timetable changes, such as staggered break times, zoning play areas and by introducing staggered drop-off and collection times
  • pupils bringing and using their own school equipment
  • no unnecessary external visitors to the school and visitors being admitted by appointment only.
  • developing protocols around the use of toilets during break and lunch times.
  • active engagement with Test Trace Protect;
  • the wearing of face coverings by all pupils in year 7 and above in school and on school transport; and
  • formal consideration of how to reduce contacts and maximise distancing between those in school wherever possible and minimise potential for contamination so far as is reasonably practicable

How contacts are reduced will depend on the school’s circumstances and includes:

  • grouping learners together;
  • avoiding contact between groups as much as possible;
  • arranging classrooms with forward facing desks (where possible and appropriate); and
  • staff maintaining distance from pupils and other staff as much as possible.

2. Is it compulsory for my child to attend school?

All children and young people and priority groups (such as vulnerable children) are required to attend school unless they are self-isolating or there are other reasons for absence.

You should notify your child’s school as normal if your child is unable to attend    so that staff are aware of any sickness absence and can discuss with you.

Parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time, although this will be reviewed and monitored.

3. Should I keep my child at home if they have an underlying health condition, or live with someone in a clinically vulnerable group, or if I am anxious about my child returning to school?

Any parent who has medical concerns about their child should seek and follow medical advice provided by their local GP or guidance from Public Health Wales in respect of accessing school during the current pandemic.

‘Extremely vulnerable’ or shielding learners

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Wales took the decision to pause his advice to shield from 16th August, because the infection rate in Wales was very low. 

However, on 22nd December 2020, due to the significant recent growth rates in infection, Welsh Government advised that those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, previously ‘shielding’ has changed and with effect from 22nd December 2020 those within this group should no longer attend work or school outside the home. Letters from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales (CMO) will be issued to individuals who are within this category confirming this advice.

Children and young people in the household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend school.

Children and young people whose parents or carers are clinically extremely vulnerable should also continue to go to school.

Welsh Government are due to review this advice on a three weekly basis aligned to the Welsh Government reviews of alert levels across Wales.

Where a learner is unable to attend school due to shielding or self-isolation, the schools will continue to provide support and resources in order for learning to take place.  This may be through a variety of means, such as work packs and digitally sourced work through Hwb, etc.

Living with a person who is either shielding or at increased risk

Children and young people whose parents / carers, or others in the household are clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend school.

Parents/carers and learners who are anxious

Schools are aware that some pupils, parents/carers may be reluctant or anxious and schools will have support in place to address this.  This may include learners living in households where someone is clinically vulnerable, or those concerned about the comparatively increased risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), including those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds or who have certain conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Parents/carers of learners with significant risk factors who are concerned can discuss such concerns with the school and the school will explain the measures in place to reduce the risk and provide the required reassurance.  All pupils of compulsory school age must attend school unless a statutory reason applies (for example, the pupil has been granted a leave of absence, is unable to attend because of sickness, is self-isolating, is absent for a necessary religious observance, etc.) or the learner themselves is in the clinically extremely vulnerable group and has been advised to shield.

4. Will education be provided as normal to children and young people who are attending?

Education settings have the flexibility to provide support and education to children and young people attending school in the way they see fit. Full curriculum access and delivery is expected.

Schools continue to be best placed to make decisions about how to support and educate their pupils during this period. This will include:

  • consideration of pupils’ mental health and wellbeing
  • assessment of where pupils are in their learning in order to inform any targeted programmes and compensatory learning, if required
  • delivery of broad, balanced and appropriately differentiated national curriculum
  • provision for pupils with Statements of Special Educational Needs

Schools will use their best endeavours to support pupils attending as well as those remaining at home, making use of the available remote education    support.

SCHOOL BUILDINGS

5. What measures have been taken to ensure safety on the school site?

Minimising contacts and mixing between people reduces transmission risk.  Hence, schools endeavour to keep groups separate and maintain distance between individuals where possible. 

For younger learners the emphasis is on class sized contact groups where possible and keeping children in their contact groups throughout the school day; and for older learners (for example, in secondary schools where pupils need to access a broad curriculum) the emphasis is on physical  distancing, where possible outside of the classroom and maintaining year group sized contact groups.

Adults are to maintain a 2 metre distance from each other, and from pupils (whenever possible). This will not always be possible, particularly when working with younger learners, learners who have complex needs or who need close contact care; however, adults maintaining distance when circumstances allow, even if only for some of the time, will help.

All schools have installed signage to facilitate social (physical) distancing and remind all staff and learners of the need to maintain social distancing.

One-way systems are in operation (where possible) and floor / wall markings will be used to identify one-way routes.  

Timetables will try to ensure that movement around the site is kept to a minimum and congested corridors are not created.

Classrooms are rearranged so that space is optimised; surplus furniture removed and the layouts ensure face to face contact can be avoided where possible.

Schools avoid large gatherings such as assemblies with more than one group.

School start / end times and lunch and break periods may be staggered.   

Where possible, separate toilets have been allocated to different contact groups. Toilets will be regularly cleaned throughout the day.

Hand sanitiser and hand soap is readily available with regular reminders of the importance of good hand hygiene.

Schools will have a good supply of foot operated pedal bins for the safe disposal of tissues and wipes – the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach is being promoted and be made part of each school’s culture.

Windows have been opened (where possible and safe to do so) to improve natural ventilation.

All schools have updated risk assessments in place ensuring the safety of their settings - the assessment directly addresses risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) so that sensible measures can be put in place to minimise those risks for children, young people and staff.

6. Are there regular hand-washing facilities for staff and pupils?     

Pupils and staff are encouraged to wash or sanitise their hands upon arrival at school / when leaving school and regularly throughout the day, especially before and after handling food, when using the toilet facilities and when someone has sneezed or coughed. 

These routines are built into the school’s culture, along with behaviour expectations.  Younger learners and those with complex needs are further assisted to help them get this right. 

Signage is in place throughout school buildings identifying hand sanitiser locations and each sink area has signage reminding all of the need for frequent hand washing.  Plentiful supplies of hand soap and hand sanitiser are available throughout all school buildings.

7. How often are schools being cleaned?

Daily cleaning frequencies / durations are greatly increased at every school.  Cleaners have received instructions regarding enhanced cleaning requirements and the identification of surfaces, which require additional / more frequent cleaning, such as door handles, tabletops, handrails, play equipment, toys etc.

Resources that are shared between contact groups, such as sports, art and science equipment are frequently and thoroughly cleaned, especially where it is necessary for them to be used by more than one contact group.

Antibacterial wipes are readily available to facilitate regular spot cleaning.

8. What if a parent wants to enter the school building to speak to a teacher?

No parents will be permitted within any school building unless they have a pre-arranged visit. Should teacher / parent contact be required, this should be by appointment and arrangements for audio and / or video communication explored as an alternative.

External visitors to the school will be admitted by pre-arranged appointment only and should wear a face covering.

9. Are school buildings being maintained?

Routine maintenance is undertaken on school buildings throughout all periods that schools have been closed. Caretakers continue to undertake statutory testing.

THE SCHOOL DAY

10. What are the contact group sizes?

In secondary schools, particularly in the older age groups at Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5, the contact groups are usually the size of a year group to enable schools to deliver the full range of curriculum subjects and for students to receive specialist teaching or interventions. If this can be achieved with small groups, they are recommended.

At primary school, and in the younger years at secondary (Key Stage 3), schools may be able to implement smaller groups the size of a full class. Where this proves to be challenging in Key Stage 3, larger sized contact groups of half-year or full year size become necessary. Where class sized groups can be achieved, it is recommended, as this helps to reduce the number of people who could be asked to isolate should someone in a group become ill with COVID-19. 

Whatever the size of the group, they should be kept apart from other groups where possible and older learners should be encouraged to keep their distance within groups.

11. What are the arrangements for pupils using the toilet?

Hand sanitiser and hand soap is in plentiful supply and where possible schools provide separate toilets for different contact groups.

Where it is not possible to provide separate toilets for different contact groups, the plentiful supply of hand sanitiser and hand soap and encouragement of good hand hygiene practices before and after entering the toilet area, helps.  Toilets are also cleaned frequently throughout the day.

12. Is my child with the same group at all times?

Consistent groups help reduce the risk of transmission by limiting the number of pupils and staff in contact with each other to only those within the group.  It is accepted that pupils and especially the youngest pupils, cannot socially distance from staff or from each other and consistent groups provide an additional protective measure. Maintaining distinct contact groups that do not mix makes it quicker and easier, in the event of a positive case, to identify those who may need to self-isolate and to keep that number as low as possible.

13. Can my child bring in their own hand sanitiser, and wear a face covering?

All schools will have hand sanitiser throughout the building and this will be fully available for the use of all pupils and staff.

The Welsh Government has updated its guidance on the use of face coverings in schools.

The guidance now states that face coverings should be worn:

  • in all areas outside the classroom by staff and pupils in secondary schools
  • on dedicated school transport for learners in year 7 and above
  • by visitors to all schools
  • by parents and carers who are dropping off and collecting children from all school sites

Please note that this is guidance and is not a mandatory requirement.

(This requirement does not apply to individuals with relevant medical conditions which constitute an exemption).

To reduce the risk of transmission amongst parents / carers and relatives, face coverings should ideally be worn when dropping off and collecting child(ren) from all school settings and at any pre-arranged appointments at the school.  Please also continue to maintain social distancing at the school gates. 

Face coverings should now be worn by pupils in year 7 and above in all areas outside the classroom (this includes outdoor areas if the school risk assessment indicates that additional measures are needed, for example on a school yard where there are a large number of pupils in a relatively small space without separation of contact groups (such as waiting to enter school).

Face coverings should continue to be worn on dedicated school transport and public transport for year 7 and above.

The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to PE lessons or to pupils with additional learning needs or relevant medical conditions which constitute an exemption.

The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to primary school-age pupils, unless of course you wish for your child to wear a face covering and they are able to do so safely. 

Face coverings do not need to be worn in the classroom where contact groups and other mitigating measures are in place to help minimise the risk of transmission.

However, if learners or staff wish to wear a face covering in a classroom then they can do so.

Face coverings are not a replacement for far more effective measures such as social (physical) distancing and hand hygiene.  The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.

Secondary age learners travelling on dedicated school transport will have to wear a face covering, as learners cannot sit together in their year groups, but they are not a substitute for good hygiene. Not only will this measure help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 but also common colds and flu, which will also be a benefit.

Learners who travel to school or college on public transport must wear a three layer face covering as mandated by the Welsh Government. Further information can be found here https://trc.cymru/school-transport.

Parental support is essential in ensuring that your child wears a face covering on school transport.  It is essential that all secondary school age pupils wear a face covering on dedicated school transport (unless there are medical or health reasons), unless your child has a physical or mental disability, illness or impairment.  

Please see the Transport section - questions 28 to 37 for more information on Home to School Transport.

14. Does my child have to have their temperature taken on arrival at school?

All schools have been provided with temperature checking devices (infrared forehead thermometers).  This is being managed at a local level at each school, although it is not a mandatory requirement to screen for a temperature.

15. Can my child bring a pencil case/rucksack to school?

Children can bring a pencil case / rucksack to school as required.  This should be solely for their personal use and equipment / stationery must not be shared. However, please note that fabric pencil cases can be difficult to clean. It is recommended that learners limit the amount of equipment they bring into school each day, to essential items only. Transfer of items to and from the home should be minimised where possible.

16. How are break / lunch times managed and monitored?

Pupils eat lunch in identified dining areas in their contact groups.  Dining may also be undertaken outdoors (weather permitting) again, with pupils remaining in their contact groups wherever possible.

Break times and lunch times will be staggered so that the numbers of children at break / lunch at the same time will be the lowest number possible. 

17. How can social distancing be maintained in relation to pupils with Additional Leaning Needs or pupils who require physical assistance?

In circumstances where social distancing is difficult (such as attending to the needs of a pupil with additional learning needs or physical needs), additional PPE is provided for staff if a risk assessment deems that this is appropriate.  The Local Authority has provided all schools with supplies of PPE. 

Schools have also been provided with mobile screens enabling them to provide 1:1 educational / pastoral / emotional support to pupils who require it without the need to wear PPE.

18. How is the Foundation Phase delivered safely?

Foundation Phase pupils still have the opportunity to learn through play.  Additional use is made of available outdoor areas and classroom spaces can be zoned to create safe areas for writing activities; creative activities; building activities; play activities etc. 

The evidence shows that youngest learners are in the least at risk group. Early years’ educational practitioners are experienced in caring for the needs of young children and will apply professional judgement.

We recognise that provision and learning experiences may not be exactly the same as they were in March, however, early years’ educational practitioners are experienced in caring for the needs of young children.  Continuing with a child centred approach means a high-quality delivery of the Foundation Phase and the same learning outcomes of social and personal development and well-being can still be achieved with safe modification and adaptation of learning spaces and resources.

Resources used will be easily cleanable and cleaned frequently.

19. What work will be provided to pupils if there is a local lockdown?

Every school has planned for the possibility of a further local lockdown and a blended learning style of learning will be used to ensure all pupils continue to engage in educational activities even if their school is not open.

Distance learning activities will continue to be provided for those children who are unable to attend school due to the need to self-isolate.

20. How is school pick up and drop off managed?

School start and end times are staggered. Parents /carers dropping off children must maintain a 2 metre distance from other families wherever possible and wear face coverings.  Markers will be in place on the ground to help parents / carers queue and remain 2 metres apart.  Parents / carers are not permitted to enter the school building and must leave the school site immediately and not congregate.

Afternoon pick up arrangements will vary depending on the school site layout.  Schools will make appropriate arrangements to ensure 2 metre social distancing is maintained wherever possible.  Face coverings should be worn and parents / carers / pupils must leave the school site immediately and not congregate.

CATERING

21. Are breakfast clubs and after school clubs running?

Applications for places in the spring term breakfast club (4th January–26th March) closed at 5pm, on Friday 4th December.

The number of places has been limited to ensure that social distancing and effective hygiene and preventative measures can be maintained.  Places were prioritised based on the time of application and applicants notified at the end of the application if they were successful or unsuccessful.  Unsuccessful applicants have been placed on a reserve list and non-attendance will result in places being reallocated.

Please note that in light of the current legislation in relation to breakfast clubs, prioritisation cannot be given to specific groups (e.g. previously unsuccessful applicants, vulnerable groups or key workers) as this provision is intended to provide a healthy breakfast to all learners. 

After School Clubs

Schools are able to restart after school clubs, but only once appropriate risk assessments have been undertaken.  Each school will advise parents / carers accordingly.

22. What are the arrangements for lunch time?

Kitchens have been fully open from the start of the autumn term and food available to all pupils who want it, including for those eligible for free school meals. Pupils eat lunch in identified dining areas in their contact groups, with surfaces used for dining being cleaned between groups / uses.  Dining may also be undertaken outdoors (weather permitting), again, with pupils remaining in their contact groups wherever possible. It might be required in a small number of cases for learners to have their lunch in their classroom to enhance social distancing.

23. Are older students able to leave school to have lunch in the community?

No children will be permitted to leave the school site during the school day.

24. Will Free School Meals continue?

Meals are provided at school on the days that your child attends school.

Support for learners eligible for free school meals has been put in place from Monday 9th November 2020 where attendance at school is not possible due to the need to self-isolate or shield as a result of Covid-19.

Where the need for a learner to self-isolate or shield due to Covid-19 is confirmed to the Council via their School, BACS payments will be made on a weekly basis equivalent to £3.90 per day. Payments will be made retrospectively, for example, eligible absences between Monday 9th and Friday 13th November will be processed the following week and will be credited to bank accounts on or around Monday 23rd November.

Week commencing 14th December

A BACS Payment was made at £3.90 per day for each eligible absence. (Schools closure day(s) due to INSET within this period were not included).

Payment for this week to those eligible free school meal pupils as recorded on their school register was made into bank accounts on the 11th January.

Weeks commencing 4th, 11th and 18th January

In line with Welsh Government’s announcement, schools will remain open only for vulnerable learners and learners of critical workers.  

BACS payments will be made at £3.90 per day to all eligible free school meal learners due to schools being required to move to on-line learning.

A BACS payment for the three weeks commencing 4th , 11th and 18th January will be paid on or around the 14th January.

Week commencing 25th January

BACS payments will continue to be made at £3.90 per day and will be paid on or around Monday the 25th January.

Thereafter, free school meal support payments will continue to be made on or around every Monday, until such time that Welsh Government have reviewed the situation and eligible learners are able to return to school.

If you receive a payment to which you are no longer eligible you will be required to repay it to the Council.

25. Is water available during the day?

All pupils should bring filled water bottles to school that can be refilled during the day.  The refilling of water bottles will be managed and supervised by the school to ensure that the safe refilling of water bottles is available to pupils who need/or request it.

Illnesses and positive tests for COVID-19

26. What happens if there is a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in my child’s school or childcare setting?

If a child, young person or staff member develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus (COVID-19), they will be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 10 days and arrange to be tested. Further detail on how to apply for a test is provided at https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or simply call the free number 119 between the hours of 7am to 11pm.

Their fellow household members should self-isolate for 10 days. If the result of the test is negative the case and the other members of the household can end their self-isolation.

All staff, children and young people and members of their households, will have access to testing if they display symptoms of coronavirus, and are strongly encouraged to be tested in this scenario. Where the child, young person or staff member tests negative, they can return to their setting and the fellow household members can end their self-isolation.

Where a child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class or group within their childcare or education setting (i.e. potential close contacts) will be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 24 hours.  The other household members (including other children in the household) of that wider class or group / potential close contact do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms but should follow the general social distancing guidance during the isolation period:

https://gov.wales/self-isolation-stay-home-guidance-households-possible-coronavirus

Any child, young person or member of staff identified within the abovementioned 24-hour period by the school / contact tracing process as being a close contact of a confirmed case will be contacted and provided with further advice and guidance relating to self-isolation.  Any child, young person or member of staff identified as a close contact must self-isolate for a minimum period of 10 days since the last contact with the confirmed case. The full 10 day self-isolation period applies even if the close contact themselves has had a negative test during this time, this is because it can take time for the symptoms to develop.

A close contact is:

  • someone within 1 metre of you with whom you have had a face-to-face conversation, had skin-to-skin physical contact, you have coughed on, or been on other forms of contact within 1 metre for 1 minute or longer;
  • someone within 2 metres of you for more than 15 minutes;
  • someone you have travelled in a vehicle with, or seated near you in public transport.

Family household members of the close contacts (including other children in the close contact’s household) are not required to self-isolate, unless the child or young person they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms, but should follow the general social distancing guidance during the isolation period.

However, if anyone in your household develops any of the COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, they need to stay at home (10 days for the person with symptoms and 10 days for the rest of the household), seek a test as soon as possible and follow the guidance

A negative test result does not mean that a return to school is appropriate. Direct/close contacts with a confirmed case will still need to isolate for the full 10 day period, even if they themselves receive a negative test result during the 10 day self-isolation period, this is because it can take time for the symptoms to develop.

Where schools and childcare settings are observing guidance on infection prevention and control, which will reduce risk of transmission, closure of the whole setting will not generally be necessary.

27. When should I not send my child to school? For example, if they have a fever?

Under no circumstances should learners or staff attend schools/setting if they:

-        feel unwell with any of the four identified COVID-19 symptoms (a new continuous cough, or a high temperature or loss of or change to their sense of taste or smell), or

-        they have tested positive to COVID-19 in the past 10 days, or

-        they live in a household or are part of an extended household with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days, or

-        they have been identified as a close contact of a case by Test, Trace and Protect and advised to self-isolate,  (Anyone identified as a close contact must self-isolate for a minimum period of 10 days since the last contact with the confirmed case. The full 10 day self-isolation period applies even if the close contact themselves has had a negative test during this time, this is because it takes time for the symptoms to develop).

-        they have returned from a country specified by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as being subject to quarantine.

TRANSPORT

28. Is school transport operating?

Dedicated school transport services are running for all entitled learners, in line with the latest Welsh Government guidance.

We are continuing to encourage parents or carers to take their children to school by walking, cycling, scooting or wheeling, or alternatively by private car, in order to reduce the capacity constraints. We understand that this will not be possible for some people.

While parents or carers may feel apprehensive about the risks in using school transport during the COVID-19 pandemic, they should decide whether to do so, or, if they prefer, they should make their own arrangements to transport their child to and from school.

29. Is my child’s usual school transport route running?

For most learners who were in receipt of free school transport last academic year or for whom new arrangements have been put in place for the 2020/21 academic year, school transport routes will continue to operate as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

You will have been notified by letter if your child’s transport has changed.

Details of the timetable, including the school bus operator for your child’s journey to school, along with additional information relating to the Mainstream School Transport Service can be found on our website (Timetables are subject to change).

Secondary learners need to carry their bus pass or where issued their temporary travel slip. They must show the driver their pass or slip in order to travel on the vehicle. Replacements for lost passes can be ordered and paid for by completing the on line form or by contacting the Council on 01443 425001.

Primary learners will have received an authorisation letter confirming their entitlement. Parents or carers must show the driver the letter in order to allow travel on the vehicle. If you have lost your authorisation letter, please contact the Council on 01443 425001. 

If transport was not already provided or you have not received confirmation that your child has been allocated a free seat on school transport, you must make your own way into school. 

30. My child has additional learning needs. What transport arrangements are in place to Learning Support Classes, Pupil Referral Units and Special Schools?

All taxis and minibuses to Learning Support Classes, Pupil Referral Units and Special Schools continue to operate as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every summer, it is necessary to make some changes to accommodate new learners onto school transport. You will have been notified by letter if your child’s transport has changed.

Whilst social distancing is not required on additional learning needs school transport, we are working with schools and operators to provide proportionate safeguards to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on school transport to ensure learners can attend school or college. These include;

  • drivers and passenger assistants will wear face coverings or visors and personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate,
  • vehicles will be cleaned regularly, including anti-bacterial wipe down of handrails, door handles and all surfaces that passengers may touch,
  • anti-bac wipes and hand sanitiser will be available,
  • on larger vehicles (minibuses), children will be directed to sit in the same seat (where possible) with the same child or children on every journey,
  • windows will be open whilst moving to ensure the vehicle is well ventilated.

31. My child is not entitled to free school transport, can I pay for a seat?

In previous academic years, the Council has offered parents or carers whose children are not entitled to free school transport the chance to purchase spare seats on dedicated school transport. However, due to the exceptional challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council has been forced to reduce the discretionary provision of sale of seats for the foreseeable future in order to ensure that entitled students receive the transport in line with the latest Welsh Government guidance.

The number of spare seats available has been reduced by half because of the need for social distancing on the vehicle between the driver / passenger assistant and the learners. It is likely that there will be some schools where there are no seats available to be purchased.

Applications opened from 28 September 2020. You can apply to purchase a seat by completing an on-line application on the Council’s website or by contacting Customer Services on 01443 425001.

Some additional public transport journeys at school times are being funded by the Welsh Government, but seating capacities remain reduced and in view of these potential constraints impacting on a learner’s ability to attend school, all sustainable and active travel modes should be considered.

32.  Does my child need to social distance on school transport?

Dedicated School or College Transport

Most learners travel on dedicated buses, coaches or taxis, which exclusively carry learners travelling to and from school or college.

The Welsh Government guidance acknowledges that it is not always possible to allow social distancing between learners accessing dedicated school or college transport. Therefore learners on most dedicated school transport will not be able to social distance.

Proportionate safeguards will be taken to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on dedicated school transport to ensure learners can attend school/settings on the basis that;

  • the overall risk to children and young people from COVID-19 is low,
  • dedicated school transport carries the same group of learners on a regular basis, and those learners may also be together in school,
  • learners will sit together in year groups where possible,
  • siblings can sit together,
  • there will be no face to face seating,
  • there will be no contact between learners and other passengers
  • windows and roof vents will be kept open where possible,
  • contact will be minimised with individuals who are unwell,
  • all passengers, including the drivers and passenger assistants should wash their hands or use hand sanitiser before boarding transport and when arriving at school or home,
  • if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, then it will be easy to identify who was travelling on which vehicle, helping to test, trace and protect,
  • there will be a rigorous cleaning and sanitising regime between before or after each journey.

Public Transport

Some learners use public transport as part of their home to school or college journey. For further information travelling to school/college by public transport can be found here https://trc.cymru/school-transport

To also help reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19, learners should;

  • minimise contact with individuals who are unwell,
  • clean hands thoroughly and more often than usual,
  • ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it kill it’ approach.

When waiting for the school bus it is a parent or carer’s responsibility to ensure their child behaves responsibly while waiting for the vehicle. This includes social distancing.

33. Is my child be expected to wear a face covering?

Clear evidence remains that the most effective way to protect your child and others from infection is to follow social distancing rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly. The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions but are recommended where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Primary age learners and those with special educational needs or who rely on lip reading to communicate may not be able to safely wear a face covering.

Secondary age learners travelling on dedicated school transport must wear a face covering, as learners cannot sit together in their year groups, but they are not a substitute for good hygiene. Not only will this measure help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 but also common colds and flu, which will also be a benefit.

Learners who travel to school or college on public transport must wear a three layer face covering as mandated by the Welsh Government. Further information can be found here https://trc.cymru/school-transport.

Learners must not touch the front of their face covering during use or when removing them. They must wash their hands immediately on arrival at school or home, dispose of temporary face coverings in a covered bin or place re-usable face coverings in a plastic bag for washing.

Please note that a refusal to comply with this requirement will result in your child’s place on school transport being compromised. Your support in reinforcing this message with your child would be greatly appreciated. If your child has a medical or health condition, impairment or disability that  would make it difficult to wear a face covering please advise school staff at the earliest opportunity.

34. What further precautions must my child take when travelling?

We ask that parents or carers help communicate to their children the importance of following good hygiene and social distancing, as this will play a key role in keeping everyone safe.

This means taking the following precautions;

  • do not travel if your child or a member of their household has any of the four identified COVID-19 symptoms (a new continuous cough, a high temperature or loss of taste or smell).
  • do not travel if anyone in the household is required to self–isolate as a contact of a case under Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) or is in quarantine having returned from a country specified by the Foreign Commonwealth Office,
  • wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands before leaving the house,
  • use the hand sanitiser provided before accessing the vehicle,
  • avoid physical contact with others,
  • windows will be open for ventilation where possible,
  • face away from other people when using school transport,
  • minimise the number of surfaces you touch, and in particular avoid touching surfaces such as handrails and window ledges,
  • do not touch your face,
  • do not eat or drink whilst using transport,
  • wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands before leaving school.

Please note that a refusal to comply with health and safety requirements, good hygiene and where possible social distancing could jeopardise your child’s place on school transport. Your support in reinforcing this message with your child would be greatly appreciated.

35. How will your child know where to sit?

Learners should board dedicated school transport on the basis of their age with younger learners sitting in the front and increasingly older learners sitting progressively towards the back.  This will ensure that discrete contact groups sit together where at all possible,

Learners will also be encouraged to use hand sanitiser on boarding the vehicle where provided. It is expected that learners will have washed their hands before boarding the vehicle and upon arrival at school.

Learners travelling on coaches or larger vehicles may be asked to use the same seat each day.

Learners using dedicated home to school taxis or minibuses will be asked to sit in the same seat each day.

36. How will you ensure that transport services are not overcrowded?

Only named passengers that have prior approval to travel, or those with secondary school bus passes for the route, are allowed to use transport. Drivers have lists of those primary school learners that will be allocated to their vehicle each day.  No pass, no travel will be strictly enforced on secondary school vehicles, and those not eligible to travel will be turned away from the vehicle.

37. Will transport suppliers be following health and safety guidance?

We are asking transport suppliers to follow the Welsh Government guidance https://gov.wales/restarting-public-transport-guidance-operators. This guidance includes actions such as regular sanitising, the thorough cleaning of vehicles and the use of PPE.

EMERGENCY PROVISION          

38. Is emergency provision for critical workers and particularly vulnerable learners available?

For the period of online learning from 6th January 2021, as directed by the Welsh Government, schools will only be open for children of eligible critical workers and high priority vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments.

Schools will contact parents / carers of high priority vulnerable children and make arrangements for a child identified as vulnerable to attend school premises for the purpose of education. 

Provision for eligible critical workers will be available for eligible children of all ages in primary, special school and pupil referral unit settings. In mainstream secondary schools, this provision will be made available for mainstream learners in years 7 and 8 only, and for the children of critical workers attending key stage 3 and 4 learning support class provisions only. Please only contact your school to apply for this provision if you clearly meet eligibility* and are scheduled to work and have exhausted all possible childcare avenues.

*Eligibility (critical workers):

-        Health and social care workers

All NHS and social care staff, including:

  • doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other health and social care workers including volunteers organisations involved with patient discharge, transport and hospital transfers
  • the administration, support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector including those third sector workers in an NHS or care setting
  • those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines, and medical and personal protective equipment
  • NHS Blood and Transplant frontline staff (blood donation staff, specialist nurses for organ donation, staff running therapeutic apheresis services in NHS hospitals)
  • those providing ancillary support to NHS workers (such as hotel accommodation for NHS staff)

-        Public safety (emergency workers) and national security workers

  • British Transport Police and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
  • Fire and Rescue Service employees (including support staff)
  • Ministry of Defence civilians, contractors and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of critical defence and national security outputs and critical to the response to the coronavirus pandemic), including defence medical staff
  • National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas
  • police and support staff
  • staff of organisations required in the national security aspects of water in Wales

-        Education and childcare workers

  • all workers in childcare settings (to include day nurseries, creches, childminders, play groups, Cylch Meithrin, after school clubs and holidays clubs)
  • Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) lecturers
  • social workers
  • specialist education professionals,
  • support staff on site at schools, FE and HE settings such as catering, cleaners, caretakers, maintenance staff all those involved in schools/FE/HE institutions to operate
  • teaching staff
  • learning support staff
  • Work Based Learning trainers and assessors
  • Youth workers

From the 18th of January 2021, an additional category will be added, namely:

-        Food and other necessary goods workers

Critical personnel in the production and distribution of food, drink and essential goods, including but not limited to:

  • those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery such as, but not limited to:

o             abattoir workers

o             fishers (crewed vessels)

o             farmers

o             milk processors

o             food retailers, manufacturers, distributors

o             storage (inc. cold & hub)

o             food animal vets

  • individuals that support the production, testing and front facing services of the food industry such as engineering or maintenance roles, quality control, food testing and customer relations
  • those critical to the provision of other essential goods, such as medical supply chain and distribution workers, including community pharmacy and testing, and veterinary medicine in food producing and public health roles
  • workers critical to the continuity of essential movement and storage of goods such as collection and delivery drivers, agricultural merchants and haulers
  • essential agriculture services i.e. sheep shearers, foot trimmers, sheep dippers, supply chains

Only one parent needs to be a critical worker to access this provision.

Places will be capped to ensure the health and safety of all children and school staff during this concerning period. The safest place for children currently is at home but if essential, your school can provide education for vulnerable learners and the children of identified critical workers in school. Where demand for places exceeds supply, requests will be prioritised based on need.

If you have any concerns or exceptional circumstances, please raise these directly with your child’s school.

EDUCATIONAL VISITS

39. Will off-site educational visits be taking place?

In accordance with Welsh Government advice, no overseas education trips for children under 18 are to be organised by educational settings.

Non-overnight educational visits within the UK are able to resume in the autumn term (subject to local COVID-19 restrictions) providing appropriate protective measures are taken, such as ensuring that COVID-controlled measures are in place at the destination and risk assessments are undertaken prior to any visit.  As part of the risk assessment, schools will consider what control measures need to be used; ensure they have taken into account wider advice on visiting indoor and outdoor venues; consider the ability of their learners to comply with COVID safety measures at the venue; and be mindful in all instances of the safety of supervising staff.

EXAMINATIONS

40. Are GCSE and AS / A-Level exams going ahead in the summer of 2021?

On the 10th of November, the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, announced there will be no end of year exams for learners taking GCSEs, AS levels or A-Levels.

In her statement, the Minister proposed the following:

  • that in place of exams, the Welsh Government intends to work with schools and colleges to take forward teacher-managed assessments;
  • that this should include assessments that will be externally set and marked but delivered within a classroom environment under teacher supervision;
  • her expectation is that this work will form the basis for centre-based outcomes which will be linked to an agreed national approach to provide consistency across Wales.

The announcement can be accessed here:

https://gov.wales/wales-approach-qualifications-2021-confirmed-education-minister-kirsty-williams

Having received proposals from a Design and Delivery Advisory Group set up to support ‘wellbeing, fairness and progression’ for learners in 2021, the Education Minister advised (on 16th December 2020) that 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

Further detail is available via the following links:

https://gov.wales/education-minister-kirsty-williams-provides-further-clarity-system-replace-exams-general

https://gov.wales/design-and-delivery-advisory-group

https://www.qualificationswales.org

https://www.wjec.co.uk/

Vocational Qualifications

The Minister’s policy decision does not relate to vocational qualifications. Adaptations for vocational qualifications have been put in place and awarding bodies are considering whether any further adaptations are required in response to the continued impact of the pandemic. Awarding bodies’ considerations will include whether any of the adaptations put in place for GCSEs, AS and A levels may be appropriate for their vocational qualifications.

Spring Term Assessments – GCSE, AS and A levels

Per the Welsh Government’s announcement on 8th January 2021, for GCSE, AS and A level learners, a decision has been made to cancel the spring term assessments that were planned to take place between 22nd February and 23rd April.  Revised assessment arrangements for the award of these qualifications in summer 2021 will be put in place shortly and further information will follow in due course.

https://qualificationswales.org/english/news/qualifications-wales-cancels-the-spring-internal-assessment-window/

https://www.wjec.co.uk/articles/update-for-assessments-in-2021-for-wales/

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