Wales Adventure Tourism Organisation has received a statement from Welsh Government – none of which, unfortunately, offers much in the way of definite answers or cause for optimism in the short-term. In summary:
- Schools in England may be able to restart trips from 17 May
- At present in Wales, only residential stays by a single household, in entirely self-contained accommodation are permitted – i.e. no school groups
- When Wales moves fully to Alert Level 3, residential stays by an extended household in shared accommodation will be permitted – but again, this excludes school groups
- Even when we move to Alert Level 2, this “would [under current rules] still not allow for multiple households on the scale of a school party to occupy the same accommodation” – although this is “subject to ongoing review”
- The Welsh Government “have not yet made any decision as to when Welsh schools could restart school trips” but are aware of Scottish Government “guidance on how outdoor education centres should operate including a requirement that only one school be on site at any time, and that accommodation be in the form of single occupancy of a room or tent from 31 May”
Here is the full statement:
“We are aware that Department for Education guidance indicates that schools in England may be able to restart school trips from 17 May, though as we understand it, that has not been confirmed at this point. As and when that position is confirmed for schools in England, and they are able to restart school trips, they would need to look at what sort of trips it was appropriate to run in line with any wider restrictions in place by the UK Government in relation to England.
“In this regard, on the assumption are no changes to the travel restrictions in place in either England or Wales between now and when school trips in England can restart, then in theory, an English school could book a trip which saw them cross into Wales. However, while in Wales, regardless of the guidance in place from the Department of Education in England, that school party would be subject to the Welsh Regulations setting out the various restrictions in place to manage coronavirus in Wales. In other words, the school party would have to comply with Welsh law, in the same way that any school party from Wales going to England would have to comply with English law imposing coronavirus restrictions whilst there.
“Turning to the Regulations, I can clarify which provisions within them relate to accommodation. These are separate from the requirements in respect of schools. In Wales, we are currently subject to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 5) (Wales) Regulations. These Regulations set out the restrictions in place at each of the four Alert Levels detailed in the Coronavirus Control Plan for Wales. We are currently in the process of transitioning to Alert Level 3. The current restrictions are those set out in Schedule 3A of the Regulations.
“Two different but related restrictions apply here. Paragraph 8, which relates to the extent to which holiday or travel accommodation can operate, and paragraph 2, which (more generally) relates to the extent to which people can gather (i.e. do things together). Both provisions have to be complied with. Holiday or travel accommodation includes the accommodation offered at outdoor education centres. The Regulations make it clear that any accommodation that is not self-contained, which is to say accommodation where facilities are shared, is currently required to remain closed. Self-contained accommodation can open but, because of the rules on gathering at present, they can only accommodate for persons from a single household. There is a very clear public health rationale for this because of the obvious risk of spreading the virus when people from different households come together in close proximity, indoors, and for prolonged periods of time. A school trip would comprise multiple-households, so would not meet the requirement for single household occupation, even if the accommodation were self-contained. Therefore, while we remain subject to the restrictions in Schedule 3A you could only accommodate residential stays where it was a single household, in entirely self-contained accommodation.
“The restrictions that would be in place when we move fully to Alert Level 3 are set out in Schedule 3 to the Regulations. While it would be possible for holiday or travel accommodation with shared facilities to open at Alert Level 3, the space could only be occupied by single households or extended households. An extended household is defined in the Regulations as where two separate households come together to form a single, and exclusive, extended household (in other words they have created what is often referred to as a “bubble”). Again, a school party on a trip would not meet this definition. While the restrictions for Alert Level 2, set out in Schedule 2, offer slightly more flexibility on who could occupy holiday or travel accommodation, it would still not allow for multiple households on the scale of a school party to occupy the same accommodation. This is however, like all of the other restrictions, subject to ongoing review and we will again consider the degree of risk given that there are benefits to children undergoing these kinds of activities.
“We have not yet made any decision as to when Welsh schools could restart school trips and will be considering this in light of the public health position in Wales. While we will, of course, consider the position in England as we respect the need for some consistency for the sector, we will also be looking at the position in other parts of the UK for the same reason.
“In this regard, you may be interested to note the guidance recently published by the Scottish Government on this matter. This includes guidance on how outdoor education centres should operate, including a requirement that only one school be on site at any time, and that accommodation be in the form of single occupancy of a room or tent from 31 May. We would, of course, discuss any such guidance in relation to operations in Wales with the sector prior to making any decisions.
“You may wish to note that our FAQs on organised activities for children already state that residential activities are not permitted. It is therefore possible for centres to provide organised outdoor activities under the current Regulations, though not as part of a residential school trip. We are aware some centres ran activity days in the recent school holidays for example. We also have FAQs on the current restrictions which cover the point on accommodation and information on what restrictions are in place at each of the Alert Levels.
“Please also see the attached written statement in respect of the Welsh Government establishing a Fund for the Residential Outdoor Education Sector. Further details on the Fund, including when it will be open to applicants, will be released in May.