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School operational arrangements from January 2022

Today the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language announced plans for the return of schools in January and specifically of the provision of two planning days to take place at the start of the January term. 

This is to enable schools to assess their situations and put necessary measures in place to support the return of learners. 

No changes are planned for childcare at this point.  Provision can continue according to the Childcare and Play COVID-19 Guidance

Settings are encouraged to continue to implement the protective measures outlined in the guidance. In particular, staff are encouraged to take up booster vaccination when offered and continue to undertake regular (twice-weekly) LFD testing.

Settings are also asked to ensure they are aware and familiar with the advice on self-isolation

Planning Days 

The planning days will be key for schools to assess the approach they need to take. Schools are advised to take a precautionary approach given the current unknowns about the Omicron variant and plan their mitigations for the return based on the ‘very high’ risk level (as outlined in the Schools Local Decision Framework).

The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language will also issue a Coronavirus Act 2020 Notice to allow schools to operate staggered start and finish times from the start of the new term as an additional mitigation should schools determine this is appropriate as part of their risk assessment process. 

The guidance provided to schools makes clear that they should consider all provision that is provided on the school site – including that provided by external organisations, such as after school clubs etc.  It also advises that any decisions on school operations or new measures to be implemented which impact external providers should be communicated quickly.  

The approaches taken by schools will vary. Local issues should be discussed with the relevant school or local authority in the first instance.

Childcare Offer

For the purposes of the Childcare Offer, providers should be advised that as outlined in the Childcare Offer Guidance where school holidays are altered due to COVID-19 response, a parent can access their holiday entitlement during those extra weeks as long as the parent has enough holiday weeks to use. Parents will not, however, be allocated more than 3 weeks holiday entitlement per school term.

As you can appreciate this is a fast evolving situation and Welsh Government continues to monitor the latest data. There may be further updates/advice to schools in the event of any significant developments during the Christmas holiday period.

We will keep you up to date with any developments over the Christmas period.

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