We have received the following update from OEAP / AHOEC following a meeting they held with the Welsh Government education team on 28 April:
“Our liaison has been handed over to a new team from the education department so we are now dealing with the senior policy lead on outdoor education and the lead for schools’ operational guidance. A summary of the discussion points is below:
- “WG will consider restarting day visits to Providers, they are consulting on health implications – guidance on this is imminent and should be published on Friday, and we suggested that this could be a stepping stone to residential visits.
- “Residential visits are still not being considered as the science advice they are working to (in consultation with Public Health Wales and England) still suggests there is a greater risk of transmission in the indoor space of a shared dormitory which may have less ventilation (windows open may lead to other health issues from being too cold). They are concerned that children will not distance and that this cannot be policed in the same way as at school, and that even if they don’t need to distance at primary school, this is for a fixed period of time each day, outside which they should be maintaining distances and staying in family bubbles. It is the sleeping aspect of a residential visit that seems to be the main block on these currently. Our key ask here is that the residential be considered part of the school day not different from it so this is considered in managing the risk (i.e. the benefits of the visit outweigh the controlled risks of transmission).
- “The financial support package for the sector announced a few weeks ago will have more guidance by the end of the week – this will consist of a web portal for organisations to express interest and then these expressions of interest will be taken forward for consideration by a smaller group. The criteria for who can apply and how the application will be judged will be released after the election.
- “The team were very concerned about the clarity of guidance and general messages going to and from the sector. The recent confusion over differing guidance in England has been a case in point. Part of this is due to Westminster govt. providing a proposed date but no guidance and colleagues across the border making assumptions. They see the guidance they are publishing this week as addressing this. We highlighted operational readiness and lag time in arranging school visits of any sort. They were clear that the guidance still stands within the law and the law applies to anyone visiting Wales – confirming what we had already understood about the single family occupancy idea based on the residential/hospitality aspect of provision. However, they were open to a needs based consideration (from an educational point of view not a financial one) to follow the model that was used in Scotland where the sector made specific asks, regarding D of E expeditions for example, to gain some leeway in that provision specifically. They are also attempting to bring youth work and education guidance into alignment.
- “In relation to the above point and to avoid future confusion we suggested that operational guidance should be parallel to the national alert level, so we are not waiting for sector specific guidance in future but know what can happen, when (as many other sectors do). Even if that isn’t that we can all operate, it reduces the uncertainty.
- “In order to try to maintain clarity we asked them to ensure that responses to individual communication was both consistent and from an appropriate person, and that we in turn would ensure that we provided feedback from these meetings to colleagues across the sector. If you have any specific requests for items to bring to the education team please let us know and we will present them – but we cannot guarantee an answer.
“We have our next meeting already scheduled which is also a positive and demonstrates the new team’s willingness to listen and work with us to support the sector.”