School Visits in Wales Update

We have received the following update from OEAP Cymru and AHOEC:

“We met with the team from WG education on 12 May (outdoor ed policy lead and the lead on schools’ guidance), and what follows are the messages coming from that meeting. Apologies for the slight delay in getting this out to you, there were a few details we needed to clarify and follow up. 

“The good news is that the guidance and rules surrounding outdoor residential and day visits will be tied to national alert levels. When the first minister announces the move from one to another, or a roadmap from moving to a different alert level, this will impact the rules for day/residential visits without needing separate consultation or condition. We are currently (13/5/21) in alert level 3.

“To that end, we want to set out the position with regards to each level as we understand it. This means that for each level:

  • Alert level 4 or above – no outdoor education/learning visits
  • Alert level 3 – outdoor education day visits can go ahead
  • Alert level 2 – single occupancy residential visits – so single family in one room/tent and not shared facilities (* see later for further clarification), and day provision of educational outdoor learning activities 
  • Alert level 1 – this should allow residential visits with multi-family occupancy following the similar guidelines to more general indoor meeting which should be based around 6 families being able to interact in an indoor space i.e. a dorm. This would extend to consider bubbles of 30, and there may be flexibility with multi-school occupancy of a site as long as the provider can demonstrate satisfactory measures to maintain the integrity of a bubble.

“Within these level allowances, it is the intention of WG not to be prescriptive or directive and allow the discretion and professional judgement of providers. This is aimed to avoid the confusion in interpretation of any guidance that we’re seeing with colleagues and providers in England since their guidance was published earlier this week, and allow individual schools, advisers and providers to work together to implement COVID secure practices that are appropriate in their context. 

“As we are currently in alert level 3, the next logical step by WG is to move to level 2 before moving to level 1. This means that even if the alert level changes, as we hope it might with the first minister’s planned announcement on Friday, it can only move to level 2. There are clearly implications to this level and associated rules/restrictions being different to those in other areas of the UK. Those working with school groups from England will be subject to any restrictions as they are law in Wales. 

“We highlighted the many and myriad financial issues and impact this decision would have in both the short and long term with potential client loss to providers in England because of differing restrictions/rules in Wales. We asked the team to consider increasing the financial support fund to try to account for this disparity, and they reported that this had been featured in cabinet discussions (in lieu of the new cabinet being announced this week the former ministers sat on that meeting) and would be taken forward to the new cabinet. 

“The financial support eligibility criteria are to be published today or tomorrow along with the website for submitting expressions of interest in applying for the fund. As we know more on this, we will pass this on. 

“It’s hard to offer and reassurance with news like this, but the conversation in the meeting was a difficult one, not least because we pushed back and worked hard to ensure that they were are fully aware the impact this decision will have on the sector in Wales. However approachable and professional the civil servants are who are working on this, they are clear that they hear and understand us, but that these are policy decisions that are taken at ministerial level.

“So to summarise:

  • If guidance changes to alert level 2 it will only allow single occupancy* – this is not the same as DfE guidance for England
  • The financial fund details should be published today or tomorrow
  • We need the country to get to level 1 before residentials with more than single occupancy can happen.”

*Clarification of single occupancy:

Q: In level 2, by single occupancy does a school class which is treated as a bubble count as single occupancy within that room? Or does single occupancy mean one person in a room and must they have an en-suite facility?

A: No, this means one family bubble which WG are clear is not the same as a school-class bubble. It basically means one person per room unless you’ve got family members in the same group. We’re seeking further clarification on the en-suite question: this is what’s implied. However, it’s expected that campsites with shared toilet facilities look to be opening up on May 17th so there does need to be some parity here. When we know more we’ll post an update

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