(Title Image: National Assembly Research Service)
Following the announcement last week that all schools in Wales would remain closed for the time being, the Welsh Government published an FAQ for how schools would work during the downtime and other important issues such as external exams.
Role of schools during the downtime
Schools should remain open as emergency childcare facilities for the children of staff who are essential to the pandemic efforts as well as children who otherwise require additional support (“vulnerable children”) – though if children can stay home, they should do so.
Those children deemed as being “vulnerable” include looked-after children, children on child protection registers, young carers, disabled children and those with special needs.
Each local authority is deciding for themselves how to carry this out, so it’s best to check with your council for how arrangements will work.
Headteachers and staff will be expected to go to school and work as usual unless they have to self-isolate. Teacher training placements are postponed and training providers can use their discretion to decide whether a trainee teacher is eligible for Qualified Teacher Status.
Estyn has suspended school inspections and requirements for test and assessment reports have been relaxed or scrapped.
Most of this applies to state schools; it’s up to independent schools whether they close or remain open.
Free school meals
Free school meals will be made available to children who are eligible to receive them and £7million has been made available from the Welsh Government to ensure this happens – arrangements will be made by each council. Supermarket/shop vouchers are being considered across the UK.
When will schools fully re-open?
The Easter holiday is set to end on April 20th 2020, but there are no plans yet for schools to reopen after that period. The situation will be kept under review.
How will students continue to learn during the closure period?
Learning is set to move online with the aim for disruption to lessons to have been kept to a minimum during the downtime.
Schools will be expected to ensure families without access to technology for online learning are provided with it (or an alternative).
What about special schools?
Where possible, services will move online (i.e. online therapy) but all local authorities will be expected to consider alternative arrangements for students with additional learning needs. Residential special schools and boarding schools should remain open wherever possible.
Summer exams (GCSEs, AS-Levels, A-Levels)
Most of 2020’s summer exams have been cancelled.
Students will receive grades at GCSE and A-Level based on their predicted grades (the latter of which is at least partially based on their performance at AS-Level) and teacher assessments.
Consideration is still being given as to how to award grades for qualifications other than GCSE and A-Level, though the WJEC says Year 10 and AS-Level (Year 12) students may sit unit exams at a later date.
What about national literacy and numeracy tests?
The requirement to sit and report on these tests will be relaxed, though as the tests are taken online schools still have the option of using them during the closure period if they want to. Traditional end-of-year tests at Key Stage 2 and 3 won’t happen.