PLAID CYMRU says a number of support and safety measures are needed to address new evidence that schools have a bigger part to play in community transmission than first thought.
Information shared in the recent Technical Advisory Group review shows higher levels of infection in schools, including asymptomatic, and that children tend to be the first in the household to become infected.
Siân Gwenllian MS, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Education Minister, said that the safety measures put in place in June need to be updated in light of the new evidence “as a matter of urgency.”
Ms Gwenllian said that additional support is also needed – specifically in those areas of high rates of infection coupled with high numbers of pupils self-isolating due to Covid-19 outbreaks in schools.
Plaid Cymru’s ‘Keeping Schools Safe’ measures would cover:
1. Mass asymptomatic testing programmes in schools and colleges
2. Clinically extremely vulnerable staff, who must be supported to work from home
3. Extra financial support to deal with the digital divide
4. Extra teachers and extra supply teachers
5. The need for clear guidance on ventilation
Ms Gwenllian has asked the government to consider as a last resort – especially for areas of high prevalence where schools must remain open – a proposal for intermittent school attendance of cohorts on a week or fortnight on/off basis.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister Siân Gwenllian MS said,
“Plaid Cymru’s ‘Keeping Schools Safe’ measures address the immediate issue in front of us – that schools have a bigger part to play in community transmission than first thought.
“The safety mechanisms put in place in our schools back in June were based on an assumption that children did not have a role to play in transmitting the virus – we now know this to be false, and as such, the safety measures must be reviewed in all educational settings.
“The ‘Keeping Schools Safe’ package I’ve announced today includes a comprehensive list of the measures that need to be addressed in schools and other educational settings to keep learners and staff as safe as possible.
“It also addresses the need to support learners whose education is the most disrupted, by employing extra teachers and fully utilising supply teachers to participate in the blended learning required in many schools.
“Where it is not safe to keep schools open, learning must continue remotely to an high standard. Government must ensure that no learner is left behind, and that processes are in place to ensure contact is maintained with all pupils when off school. That starts with adequately monitoring and measuring the digital divide.
“There are many steps the government could and should take to get us closer to this goal of more Covid-secure educational settings. Plaid Cymru has said what it thinks is needed in schools – now it’s over to government.”