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BojanaMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 20-Mar-20 18:16:08

Guest post: What you need to know about education response in Wales to Covid-19

The Welsh Government’s Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, answers some common questions about schools and education in Wales

Kirsty Williams

Welsh education minister

Posted on: Fri 20-Mar-20 18:16:08

(18 comments )

Lead photo

"From Monday, schools will have a new purpose."

The Welsh Government’s Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, announced earlier this week schools in Wales would be closing at the end of today (20 March) as part of the latest effort to tackle Coronavirus in Wales.

Here she will seek to allay the concerns of parents and offer advice about where they can seek further information. The Minister will also be answering your questions during a webchat on Mumsnet between 12.30pm-1pm on Monday next week.

We know each government in the UK is offering support and advice in these trying times, but we are doing everything in our powers to help councils and schools identify key workers and help them with childcare in every way we can in Wales.

The situation is evolving every day, but here our latest answers to common questions. You can also check out our FAQ for further information.

Q When are schools in Wales closing?

Schools across Wales will close for the statutory provision of education by 20 March 2020. We are working quickly to repurpose our schools so that, from Monday, they are open to support our most vulnerable children and the children of workers involved in the immediate response to the outbreak.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams’ statement is available here.

Q Why are schools closing?

We are acting on a change of expert advice and increasing numbers of staff who are self-isolating.

Q What about A Level, GCSE and other summer exams?

We have had to take the decision to cancel exams for summer 2020 given that there can be no guarantee for when exam centres will be able to re-open and conduct exams safely and securely. The respective governments for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have made the same decision with their summer exams

Q What about exam results?

We are working with Qualification Wales, WJEC and fellow UK regulators to ensure that learners due to sit their A levels will be awarded a fair grade to recognise all their hard work. Grades for GCSE and A level qualifications in 2020 will be calculated using a range of evidence. They will be based on a combination of factors including marks for work completed to date, for example AS results for A level grades, and teacher assessed grades.
We will not be using the results to publish performance measure outcomes in 2020

Q When will schools open again?

We cannot assume schools will re-open for normal classes after the Easter break – this situation is being kept under constant review.
From Monday, schools will have a new purpose. They will help support those most in need, including people involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak. We are working across government and with local government to develop and finalise these plans.

The key areas we are looking at are supporting and safeguarding the vulnerable and ensuring continuity of learning. We are looking in detail at how we can support and safeguard all those who benefit from free school meals and children with additional learning needs.
Distance learning is available through Hwb

We are doing everything in our powers to help councils and schools identify key workers and help them with childcare in every way we can in Wales

Further information will be made available as soon as possible.

Q What will happen to schools next week?

We expect that Head Teachers will be in school next week and school staff should expect to continue to work, having regard to the latest advice on social distancing and self-isolation. We expect Local Authorities to use their powers to direct activity in schools and make best use of the resources available.

Q What is happening to childcare settings?

Given the latest scientific advice, we are recommending that all children are cared for at home wherever possible. It is imperative that, as far as possible, we minimise social contact. This means if children can stay safely in their home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. Quite simply the fewer people having social contact, the more effective the overall impact of the current measures will be.

We are recommending that childcare settings remain open to ensure there is care available for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children where they can. We understand that some may be unable to do so especially if they are experiencing severe staff shortages. We will work with local areas to use neighbouring schools, colleges and childcare providers to continue to support vulnerable children and children of critical workers.

Q But will childcare settings still be supported financially if the number of children attending falls?

Welsh Ministers have agreed if a setting is closed on medical advice or if children are not able to attend due to Covid-19, existing government funding will still be made available. This will include funding for the childcare offer for Wales.

This funding will also continue where staffing numbers fall to a level that the setting is no longer safe to operate.

Welsh Ministers also expect local authorities to maintain payments for childcare provided under Flying Start and for the provision of early education.

The childcare offer for Wales provides 30 hours a week of government-funded early education (FPN) and childcare for eligible working parents of three to four-year-olds, for up to 48 weeks of the year. This is available throughout Wales.

Childcare settings that do not currently have government-funded places should also be eligible for assistance under the wider packages of support for businesses being put in place across Wales and the UK.

Q Will childcare setting receive any financial support if they needs to close as a result of advice from Public Health Wales or the Welsh Government due to Coronavirus?

The Welsh Government has confirmed that it will continue to pay for hours of childcare booked under our Childcare Offer.

We will pay for booked hours where a child is unable to attend due to sickness or needing to isolate. We will also pay for booked hours where a setting is required to close by the Welsh Government or following advice from the Chief Medical Officer or Public Health Wales. We are working with local authorities regarding funding for Flying Start and early education provided through Foundation Phase Nursery.

Q How are you working with local authorities about what schools provide?

Our priorities for ongoing provision in schools, which we would like Local Authorities and Head Teacher to focus on, are:
For learners eligible for free school meals, putting in place short term measures to ensure their needs can be met in a flexible way
Securing appropriate provision for vulnerable learners
Identifying children of people involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak and making provision available

Q What plans are in place for children who normally get free school meals?

We are working closely with schools and local authorities across Wales to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals. For next week, local authorities are making arrangements – they will naturally vary based on local needs, but may be a mix of ‘pick up and go’ from schools or food delivered to home or community locations. Please check with your local school and/or local authority. We are developing a Wales-wide approach to provide support through vouchers and we are working with the Governments in Scotland and England on this. Further details will be available soon.

Sources of general guidance

Welsh Government coronavirus website

Welsh Government guidance for educational settings

Welsh Government FAQ about school closures

Covid-19: travel guidance for the education sector

Guidance on social distancing

Public Health England and Public Health Wales websites

Qualifications Wales website

Qualification Wales latest statement on exam results

WJEC statement

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Sign up to Dysg.

Note from MNHQ: We are working on getting updates on education for parents in other parts of the UK.

By Kirsty Williams

Twitter: @WG_Education

Thatstoast Sat 21-Mar-20 10:31:27

Many mums at my son's school work in health and social care. Unfortunately, this work is often low paid and they earn less than their partners who are not key workers. Merthyr Council have confirmed, seemingly contrary to Welsh government advice, that BOTH parents have to be key workers to receive childcare support. This means people are having to make a financial decision about whether they can afford work as they lose their husbands income whilst he cares for children. We need as many people available for the NHS as possible, and NHS workers always go above and beyond. Councils should help as much as possible to make sure they are available to work. Could you clarify what councils should be doing to provide childcare for key workers during this time?

DrMadelineMaxwell Sat 21-Mar-20 18:53:10

Flintshire CC have also gone down the single parent vital worker or both parents who are key workers.

Pumpkinpie1 Sat 21-Mar-20 22:23:48

On Monday if the government gets its way the Coronavirus bills sets to slash the legal protections our children currently have under the Care Act. EHCps mental health detention social care all affected
Stephen Broach in the special needs jungle has written about it to try & tell people before it’s too late !

Fearofawelshplanet Sun 22-Mar-20 10:25:41

Same here in Swansea too, its both parents here. Its just makes a potentially stressful enough situation even worse...

IlsaLund Sun 22-Mar-20 18:55:12

Latest advice from WG is here publishes this afternoon

leghairdontcare Mon 23-Mar-20 09:58:38

@Fearofawelshplanet absolutely, stories this morning of people not being able to go to work and some in care saying they will have to quit their jobs.

I know there's no good solutions at the moment but we most priotise NHS and other healthcare occupations.

Employers need more guidance too as lots of companies have designated staff as key workers when anyone with common sense would say they're not.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 23-Mar-20 12:03:40

Hello

Kirsty Williams will be here to answer your questions soon, but in the meantime we've been asked to post up this update from the Welsh Government. You can also see a link to the minister's press briefing today here

---------------

5 things you need to know before sending your children to school or childcare

The latest scientific advice

The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear.

Everyone must, as far as possible, minimise social contact and make sure that anyone who is particularly vulnerable to the virus is able to adopt strict social distancing.

How does social distancing affect schools and childcare settings?

We have advised schools and childcare should only be open to a limited number of children.

We must keep the number of children in educational, childcare and play settings to the smallest number possible.

We also need to make sure children are not left with anyone who should be following strict social distancing guidance, such as anyone over 70 or anyone with the specified underlying health conditions.

Keeping children safely in their home should limit the chance of the virus spreading and protect those vulnerable to more serious illness as a result of the virus.

If your child receives free school meals, this will continue. But the way your child gets this food depends on your school. Please check with them.

What is the latest advice on critical workers?

A list of categories of critical workers has been published on the Welsh Government website.

Places in schools and childcare will be highly limited and only particularly vulnerable children and the children of critical workers whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response should be attending during this time.

If you are classed as a critical worker but are able to perform the critical parts of your job effectively when working from home, then you should do so.

Even for critical workers, provision will only be made in schools or other settings where there is no safe alternative for your family.

I'm a critical worker but my partner isn't. What should we do?

If you are in a family where one parent is a critical worker but the other parent is not then the other parent should provide safe alternative arrangements at home when possible.

I’ve seen different advice from different councils. How are local authorities working?

Local authorities are doing everything they can to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. They made and communicated plans based as part of an initial contingency to deal with the spread of coronavirus.

Those plans will now adapt and change as they respond to the latest guidance available to the Welsh Government. For the very latest advice, please check your local authority’s website and gov.wales/coronavirus.

KirstyWilliamsAM Mon 23-Mar-20 12:30:29

Prynhawn da, good afternoon everyone. I'm here in my office in Cardiff Bay and ready to take your questions until 1pm.

laurenmarie324 Mon 23-Mar-20 12:32:26

HELP ACCESS TO HE STUDENTS GET THE GRADES THEY DESERVE
As you announced that GCSEs and A levels would not go ahead this year, me and everyone on my course patiently waited for news on what would happen with our course. We are studying Access to health care in a South Wales college, last night we were told that AGORED the awarding body of our course had decided that all remaining units on our course must be completed.

We are now expected to teach ourselves at home with everything that is currently going on. We are expected to prepare ourselves for an online biology exam next Thursday. We have to teach ourselves one whole remaining unit of biology and then complete 2/3 assignments that come with that unit. We are also supposed to have a psychology exam in two weeks, I'm not sure how we are able to compete a closed book exam from home, if we are expected to sit it then we have to then teach ourselves for it. We then have psychology assignment due in after the official easter holidays, again, we are expected to teach ourselves this. We also then have an extended project that is due in at the end of April, we are now expected to complete all of these things at home with no face to face lessons. On top of all this some of the class still have maths assignments to hand in and any resubmissions from assignments that were completed before this chaos. I can't see how all of this is possible with no face to face lessons.

On top of all of this, our a course is a course for mature students. Over half of the people in my class have at least 2 children at home with them. I don't have children myself but I feel like I should tell you this as they are being expected to do so much. How can they be expected to self teach, complete assignments on time and homeschool their children at the same time. Many people in my class are also key workers.

We appreciate this is a really hard time for everyone but this is our education too, this is our future. Our futures depend on our Grades so we can't just sit by and let this happen after all of our hard work. Too much is being expected of us Access students. On behalf of everyone in my class and I'm sure many more access students across the country, please help us any way you can.

KirstyWilliamsAM Mon 23-Mar-20 12:34:25
I understand that these are difficult times for us all but I have to be clear with you.

The absolute advice is that 'if one parent is a critical worker but the other parent is not then the other parent should provide safe alternative arrangements at home when possible'.

More guidance on key workers here: gov.wales/5-things-you-need-know-sending-your-children-school-or-childcare-coronavirus

Diolch

Thatstoast

Many mums at my son's school work in health and social care. Unfortunately, this work is often low paid and they earn less than their partners who are not key workers. Merthyr Council have confirmed, seemingly contrary to Welsh government advice, that BOTH parents have to be key workers to receive childcare support. This means people are having to make a financial decision about whether they can afford work as they lose their husbands income whilst he cares for children. We need as many people available for the NHS as possible, and NHS workers always go above and beyond. Councils should help as much as possible to make sure they are available to work. Could you clarify what councils should be doing to provide childcare for key workers during this time?

KirstyWilliamsAM Mon 23-Mar-20 12:40:40
Thank you for your message.

I know that these are tough times for us all.

All the vocational awarding bodies have been working with Qualifications Wales to have a fair and consistent approach to assessing the work that has been disrupted by coronavirus.

I would recommend speaking to your tutor as soon as possible about your own situation and how they intend to support you during this time.

Qualification Wales, like Ofqual in England, is an independent body but I have asked them to work as quickly as possible on these matters.

More info here:
Qualifications Wales / Homewww.qualificationswales.org › english

laurenmarie324

HELP ACCESS TO HE STUDENTS GET THE GRADES THEY DESERVE
As you announced that GCSEs and A levels would not go ahead this year, me and everyone on my course patiently waited for news on what would happen with our course. We are studying Access to health care in a South Wales college, last night we were told that AGORED the awarding body of our course had decided that all remaining units on our course must be completed.

We are now expected to teach ourselves at home with everything that is currently going on. We are expected to prepare ourselves for an online biology exam next Thursday. We have to teach ourselves one whole remaining unit of biology and then complete 2/3 assignments that come with that unit. We are also supposed to have a psychology exam in two weeks, I'm not sure how we are able to compete a closed book exam from home, if we are expected to sit it then we have to then teach ourselves for it. We then have psychology assignment due in after the official easter holidays, again, we are expected to teach ourselves this. We also then have an extended project that is due in at the end of April, we are now expected to complete all of these things at home with no face to face lessons. On top of all this some of the class still have maths assignments to hand in and any resubmissions from assignments that were completed before this chaos. I can't see how all of this is possible with no face to face lessons.

On top of all of this, our a course is a course for mature students. Over half of the people in my class have at least 2 children at home with them. I don't have children myself but I feel like I should tell you this as they are being expected to do so much. How can they be expected to self teach, complete assignments on time and homeschool their children at the same time. Many people in my class are also key workers.

We appreciate this is a really hard time for everyone but this is our education too, this is our future. Our futures depend on our Grades so we can't just sit by and let this happen after all of our hard work. Too much is being expected of us Access students. On behalf of everyone in my class and I'm sure many more access students across the country, please help us any way you can.

KirstyWilliamsAM Mon 23-Mar-20 12:45:04
These are fast moving times and we are having to make unprecedented decisions. Our latest advice is always available at gov.wales/coronavirus but do get in touch with me on specific issues via Twitter or email covid19educations@gov.wales.

Pumpkinpie1

On Monday if the government gets its way the Coronavirus bills sets to slash the legal protections our children currently have under the Care Act. EHCps mental health detention social care all affected
Stephen Broach in the special needs jungle has written about it to try & tell people before it’s too late !

KirstyWilliamsAM Mon 23-Mar-20 12:47:10
I completely agree with you, priority must be given to those on the front line dealing with the immediate response. I would appeal to both employers and employees to heed our latest advice and make the right decision.

More info on key workers here: gov.wales/5-things-you-need-know-sending-your-children-school-or-childcare-coronavirus

leghairdontcare

*@Fearofawelshplanet* absolutely, stories this morning of people not being able to go to work and some in care saying they will have to quit their jobs.

I know there's no good solutions at the moment but we most priotise NHS and other healthcare occupations.

Employers need more guidance too as lots of companies have designated staff as key workers when anyone with common sense would say they're not.

KirstyWilliamsAM Mon 23-Mar-20 12:51:55

Thank you for all your live questions and do keep them coming in. I have 10 minutes left so will answer some sent from Twitter this morning.

Umar asked: " Hi, my Q is what will happen to AS Students (year 12) Please can you provide clarity on this, I think they should be assessed the same way as year 11 and 13 as next year we have Coursework’s, UCAS and doing two exams one at the start of the year and one at the end would be hectic"

My response: "I know that Qualifications Wales are working as quickly as they can on this issue but decision making priority had to be for GCSE and A-level in the first place. However, they are looking at all options for AS and this will include the opportunity to sit exams in a subsequent exam series. You will hear from me and QW as soon as a decision has been made"

More info here: www.qualificationswales.org/english/

KirstyWilliamsAM Mon 23-Mar-20 12:55:27

Seren Crwydr on Twitter asks: Where can pre school children of key workers receive their child care?

My response: "They need to get in touch with their local authority who can advise them of their nearest available settings. Again, I'd like to thank all critical workers helping us fight coronavirus together"

KirstyWilliamsAM Mon 23-Mar-20 12:58:27

Sam on Twitter asks : " What about the pupils who don’t have a working laptop?"

My response: "Please ask your schools in the first instance. I have heard of some great examples of support being provided across Wales. I want to stress that our great Hwb platform is free and can be used across ALL devices - including smartphones - and not just laptops. Just a reminder, all pupils in Wales can have free access to all Microsoft Office tools across five devices - please make the most of this. More info here
Hwb - Welsh Government hwb.gov.wales

KirstyWilliamsAM Mon 23-Mar-20 13:01:47

That's all the time we have for today I'm afraid.

Diolch yn fawr / thank you all so much for sending in your questions. I will continue to update you all from my Twitter account (*@wgmin*_education). Please feel free to keep sending your questions to me using covid19education@gov.wales.

And remember, if your children can stay safely in their home, they should.

Stay home. Protect our NHS. Save lives.

BigcatLittlecat Mon 23-Mar-20 13:03:51

Hi I am a teacher in wales. I have controlled asthma not chronic but I have had the flu job. After yesterday's announcements I'm not sure if I should be in school or not? Thanks

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