Plaid Cymru criticise Welsh Gov for not issuing guidance on ventilation in schools
Plaid Cymru has criticised the Welsh Government for not issuing guidance on ventilation in schools.
The party’s Education Spokesperson, Sian Gwenllian MS, has expressed her “disappointment” in the government’s “hesitancy” in adopting ventilation to stem the spread of Covid amongst the population least likely to be vaccinated.
She has called on the Welsh Government to make use of all methods available to keep children, young people and staff safe as schools, colleges and universities prepare to re-open following the summer holidays.
According to the guidance from Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education, staff in primary schools and staff and learners in secondary schools and colleges not showing symptoms should take regular rapid lateral flow tests twice a week, as well as report the results online.
They should also do so in the week leading up to the first day back. The Welsh Government issued guidance yesterday ahead of the new school year in September, but it does not mention ventilation.
Independent SAGE guidance, published in June 2021, recommended the use of ventilation to be implemented immediately in schools, and in a separate report called for the creation of a ventilation support fund.
Plaid Cymru Education Spokesperson, Sian Gwenllian MS said: “While refreshed guidance for schools is welcome, it’s disappointing that the Welsh Government hasn’t made good use of the summer holiday period to put in place plans for proper ventilation in schools.
“There is an increasing body of scientific evidence suggesting the huge role ventilation plays in reducing the spread of airborne viruses like Covid-19; encouraging fresh air to circulate in indoor spaces is one of our key tools for combatting Covid.
“We know that being outdoors reduces the risk significantly, so why is the government hesitant to make use of ventilation to lower transmission in schools?
“We must use all the tools in our arsenal to keep children safe and prevent Covid spreading amongst the population least likely to be vaccinated.”
The new guidance says:
- Get the vaccine if it’s offered to you.
- Maintain regular handwashing.
- Any staff or learner with symptoms of Covid-19 – however mild – should stay at home and book a PCR test at their closest test site.
- Staff in primary schools – and staff and learners in secondary schools and colleges – without symptoms should take two lateral flow tests (LFTs), three days apart during the week leading up to their first day back. If the test is positive they should self-isolate, and book a PCR test.
- Going into the new term, staff in primary schools and staff and learners in secondary schools and colleges not showing symptoms should continue to take regular rapid lateral flow tests twice a week, and report the results online.
- Learners Years 7 and above should continue to wear face coverings on school and college transport.
- Staff and learners should use any LFTs they have in their household first, or order tests online for free, or collect them from community collection points or pharmacies. Schools will provide LFTs during term time.
Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said: “Earlier in the summer, I wanted to ensure that at the start of the 2021/22 school year, we could keep learners and staff safe, and lessen the possible disruptions posed by Covid-19.
“By now, all of our workforce will either have received or been offered a vaccine. We have also offered the vaccine to all of Wales 16 and 17 year olds, and will offer it to clinically vulnerable 12 to 15 year olds.
“This means the risks posed by Covid are much lower – but we still need people to follow some rules, to make sure we don’t risk the level of disruption of day-to-day learning that we saw during the pandemic.”
The Minister added: “I’d like to thank everyone across Wales for their efforts in helping us to get to this point. And by continuing to follow these measures, we can all look forward to starting a safer and more stable year, in which schools and colleges will be the safest place learners can be.”
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Wales has the 1999 Act governing schools premises standards . England copied it in watered down form. Wales does not need guidance when it has a fairly comprehensive law including specific standards for ventilation.