All schools in Caerphilly County Borough will remain open for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.
The decision to keep all schools open differs from the hubs approach when schools were closed during the first phase of the pandemic last year.
On Monday, January 4, Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced schools would remain closed to most pupils until Monday, January 18.
Pupils not in attendance will receive teaching online.
Will there be hubs like last time?
There will not. Instead of central hubs, each individual school will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
That means every school in Caerphilly County Borough will remain open for those who need it.
Do I qualify as a key worker?
The Welsh Government has a long list of roles that qualify as ‘essential’ – which is available here.
Beyond this, Caerphilly Council sets its own criteria for a child to be eligible for a place in a school.
Pupils must be of school age and registered at a Caerphilly school prior to the schools closing in December 2020 and must live in Caerphilly County Borough.
All parents/adults in the household must be a key worker required to attend their workplace meaning the child cannot be safely cared for at home.
Do I have to register my child for them to attend?
If you have received critical worker education provision before and your circumstances have not changed, you do not need to do anything.
If you have not received critical worker education provision before, or your circumstances have changed, you must complete the required application form.
Your school will then contact you with arrangements.
Who qualifies as a vulnerable child?
Vulnerable children are identified by the council for a number of different reasons.
Parents of vulnerable children will be notified that their children qualify for a school place.
Is there a difference between primary and secondary schools?
Not really. If your child qualifies for a place because they are vulnerable or because of key worker status, they will be provided with a place at their school.
The council have said priority will be given to years 11, 12 and 13 when face-to-face learning returns.
What about Trinity Fields?
The council have confirmed that Trinity Fields School & Resource Centre will remain open for eligible pupils.
What about pre-school and childcare provision?
The Welsh Government has announced all childcare settings can remain open.
Will my child be safe going into a school?
The Welsh Government has consistently maintained that schools are a safe place for pupils and staff.
However, yesterday’s decision to extend closure of schools until at least January 18 suggests they have now acknowledged that school attendance contributes to transmission of the virus.
Schools will continue to implement strict policies and rules on social distancing, hand washing and cleaning to make them as safe as possible.
With fewer pupils in attendance, social distancing is expected to be easier to enforce.
What about free school meals?
Pupils entitled to free school meals will continue to receive deliveries to their home addresses.
Pupils eligible for free school meals who are attending schools will receive meals while in attendance.
Pupils not receiving free school meals will be required to bring a packed lunch.
In December, the Welsh Government announced they would extend free school meal provision until Easter 2022.
How long will schools remain closed?
At the moment, the date set for a return to face-to-face learning is Monday, January 18.
Both the council and Welsh Government have said they are committed to reintroducing face-to-face teaching in a phased approach for all pupils after January 18, although this depends on national and local risk assessments.
Some school leaders, unions and opposition politicians have questioned whether the two-week classroom closure will be enough, with England and Scotland announcing a similar closure until February.
Rosie Lewis, Schools Lead Officer for UNISON Wales, said: “This is a public health emergency and education should move online at least until February except for vulnerable children and those of key workers. We need an all-Wales approach rather than leaving decisions to local authorities.
“Welsh government must get this right instead of leaving parents, staff and whole communities confused and at risk.
“They need absolute assurance they are going to be safe when schools reopen. That includes prioritising all school staff for vaccinations. No school staff member should have to work where they face serious and imminent danger.”
Welsh Government has said it will keep the measures under constant review.
What are the council saying?
Cllr Ross Whiting, Cabinet Member for Education, said: “The health and wellbeing of pupils and teachers is paramount and we must protect the whole school community from this dangerous virus.
“I welcome the Welsh Government announcement that schools across the county borough will now provide online and distance learning until at least January 18 for the majority of pupils. We are committed to returning to face-to-face teaching and learning as soon as national and local guidance allows and it is safe to do so.
“I would like to thank schools for their ongoing efforts to support pupils during this difficult time and I would also like to thank parents for their patience and co-operation during this unprecedented period of disruption to our schools.”
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