Covid measures for schools in Wales will be brought into line with guidance for businesses and other organisations, it was announced on Tuesday.
Education and Welsh Language minister Jeremy Miles said the changes “reflect the move from pandemic to endemic”.
The Welsh Government wrote to schools on Tuesday to inform them that they no longer need to use Covid measures based on local circumstance, which are based on the Local Covid-19 decision framework.
The changes are in line with the Welsh Government’s stance that coronavirus should now be considered in the same context as other infectious illnesses such as flu.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has said remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted by May 9 if the public health situation remains stable. Changes to requirements to schools will come into effect on the same day.
Schools will still be advised to work with local authorities and public health advisers so that measures are “appropriate and proportionate” and reflect the levels of local risk.
Schools and other education settings will be given checklists to consider which local measures remain proportionate, while special schools will continue to follow guidance for children and young people who are clinically vulnerable.
Mr Miles told the Welsh Government’s weekly press briefing: “In line with the wider public health guidance published at the last three-week review, we have today written to headteachers to signpost the impending changes to our advice for schools, which reflect the move from pandemic to endemic.
“This will ensure school guidance is more closely aligned with the rest of society.”
He added: “We all know that Covid-19 has not gone away. It remains vitally important we reduce the spread of the virus where we can – this includes, for example, following self-isolation guidance, and for education settings to continue to undertake robust risk assessments.”
Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: “Our position throughout the pandemic has been that decisions on mitigation measures in schools must be based on the medical and scientific evidence available, and while the rest of Wales moves into a new phase of living with Covid, we appreciate the need to adapt to a changing situation.
“But the reality for schools is that we are still seeing significant staff and learner absence as a result of Covid,” she added.
She said that a recent survey of members showed that the costs of Covid-related absence in primary schools would “quickly spiral into the tens of thousands of pounds”.
“The majority of schools in Wales will not have the insurance in place to cover short-term staff absence so supply costs will come directly out of school budgets. This is the very money that has been allocated to setting to support teaching and learning. It won’t take very long for schools to burn through existing funds and have to make cuts to balance budgets.”
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