Residential Visits and the outdoor education-specific economic resilience fund – update from Welsh Government

We have received the following update following the OEAP/AHOEC meeting with the education team from WG yesterday:

(Apologies if the format isn’t great,  there’s a limit to what I can do with a mobile phone on the top of a mountain!)

The majority of the meeting was spent putting questions that colleagues had asked us to present to try to gain some clarity on potential operations once we move to alert level 1.
The first thing to confirm is that as far as we know it is still the intention to make an announcement on Friday which will move the country to alert level 1 from the following Monday (June 7th) as we previously understood. There are no contraindications to this at the current time but obviously, things can and may change quickly.
As and when this announcement is made, further guidance as to what is acceptable at level 1 in both guidance and rules will also be published (i.e. at the same time or very soon afterwards). This guidance will still be in two main areas that concern the outdoor sector: guidance for schools within Wales as to what they can/can’t/should/shouldn’t be doing in terms of outdoor education visits and; guidance for accommodation providers which covers visitors of all ages from other parts of the UK i.e. for those who provide residential facilities to school groups from England.
We were able to present a number of concerns/questions in this area and the answers are below.
Face coverings/masks:
The law in Wales dictates that everyone over 11 should wear a face-covering in a public place regardless of whether they are in primary or secondary school. This applies to educational visits to places like museums, galleries etc. (when those attractions are open). This is deemed necessary when social distancing cannot be maintained. The intention is that schools discuss with providers how they will continue to meet their responsibility to ensure the law is followed but this is in consultation with providers i.e., it is not the provider’s job to do this alone, but in consultation with a school. Providers will need to discuss with school visit coordinators/organisers how they will manage social distancing indoors, and what/where the public places are that would require a face covering. This allows providers to work with schools for the most appropriate arrangements for their context without dictating a one size (doesn’t) fit all approach.
The rule of 6:
At level 1, children will be able to share sleeping accommodation providing that they are from not more than 6 households. Although the actual numbers of under 11s are not counted in the total number of occupants (as set out in the accommodation guidance), there should be no more than 6 households represented, which in effect means 6 individuals (unless you have siblings in the same year group sharing a room or some other situation like that). 
Outdoor education residentials are considered organised indoor activities (at the times when the children are indoors such as in dining rooms, teaching rooms etc.) thus from the guidance, the limits for the number of people meeting indoors for organised activities applies (not for sleeping this is specifically covered above), not the limit on 6 households (such as for eating out in a restaurant, going to a pub etc. which is not an organised activity). This is relying on the fact that the activities are organised and therefore social distancing or other protocols can be maintained. 
Connected to this is the fact that the guidance will not specify a bubble size (as the guidance in England does) to allow providers to work with their school clients and try to mirror the arrangements the school has and/or what is appropriate for their context. The key point is that providers and schools must ensure that they maintain the integrity of the bubble that the school are already operating in. This means that larger providers need to consider this if they are planning to have multi-group occupancy of a site, and smaller providers will have different considerations if they are only dealing with one school bubble. This gives providers the opportunity to put in place measures that suit their site/context/group’s needs without having to stick to an inflexible or inappropriate ruling. Ultimately the integrity of the bubble needs to be maintained so that track and trace procedures can deal with an infection should one occur.
The team are aware there are inconsistencies between some of the guidance for school sports and that for youth/sports clubs and are working to bring those into line.
The outdoor education-specific economic resilience fund:
Expressions of interest close this Friday (4th June) so make sure you have put yours in. 
The £45K limit on individual awards relates to the limit on other sector/ERFs and does not represent an undervaluing or misunderstanding of the financial contribution that the sector makes to the economy of Wales (or our local economies). We asked the team to follow up the request to look at the total amount of £2 million for the fund to ascertain whether there may be more money available. So far, they have received around 50 expressions of interest, and even those that are unlikely to qualify, have been put in touch with other funds that they may qualify for (thinking of some speculative EoIs from campsites and the like).
The fund asks for some administration function to be happening in Wales – this does not mean that a head office or main base must be in Wales, so those who are part of larger organisations with a head office in England could still apply. The term ‘administration function’ is pretty broad, so it could be argued that dealing with bookings, programming courses, staff rotas, staff professional development and the like are all administrative functions so it is worth expressing an interest if you do any of these. A few providers who were charities or commercial organisations with headquarters outside Wales had asked this or expressed regret that they didn’t feel they could put in an EoI. The message is that the fund is trying to support as many organisations as possible in the sector, so some admin should meet the criteria. Similarly, there is no need to differentiate an EoI as to whether it’s based on level 1 or level 2 operation, as the fund is for providers for whom the majority of their business comes through residential operations. 
We will have another meeting in a few weeks’ time (date TBC), but the main thing to take from this meeting is the clarification on what will happen when we move to level 1, which is looking likely to be announced at the end of this week. This information is being shared across the sector and through the OEAP so advisers who are working with school groups making arrangements with you as providers will also have this information.
As always, please contact any of us for further clarification. We can raise issues as they arise even before meetings to either get quicker answers or at least ensure the items are considered at our meetings.

2 thoughts on “Residential Visits and the outdoor education-specific economic resilience fund – update from Welsh Government”

  1. As I read this, this makes it appear that a Y6 residential visit to Wales with children all from the same English bubble, travelling as a bubble in a coach, wearing masks while indoors, having sole use of the centre and limiting bedroom sharing to a maximum of 6 children, should be able to go ahead on 14th-18th June. Does this sound likely? Any advice welcome. Many thanks.

    • Hi Rachel, no I’m afraid we don’t yet have a date from which such residential visits will be permitted – nothing has been announced by the Welsh Government which would suggest this will be possible from 14-18 June. Sorry!


Leave a comment