Senedd roundup: Guidelines for schools reopening announced

Photo by Stuart Green from Pixabay

New guidance has been published by the government ahead of the reopening of schools in Wales from 29 June.

Only around a third of pupils will be allowed in school at any one time, as schools prepare to welcome children back for the first time since they were forced to shut in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Amongst the measures proposed are outside learning, teaching in small groups and pupils eating at their desks.

The guidelines also include recommendations on social distancing and travelling to and from school.

The guidance states it is “not practicable” to expect primary pupils to maintain 2 metres  social distancing but staff will seek to ensure “some distancing” between learners.

Primary school children will be permitted  to mix in groups of up to eight.

In secondary schools, pupils will be asked to keep up to 2 metres apart and when indoors avoid moving from room to room as they normally would.

The guidance also recommends:

Pupils’ arrival and departure times as well as lunchtimes and breaks should be staggered.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not required for “routine educational activities” but some protection should be worn if any pupil displays symptoms or when providing intimate care.

Where possible, parents should travel with children to and from school, ideally on foot, bike or scooter, avoiding public transport where possible.

Local authorities should work with schools to determine the demand for school transport and try to meet the requirements.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said “striking a balance” between national public health and “local flexibility” had been key in drawing up the guidelines, and added: “We are working together to ensure that this opportunity is available to the vast majority of pupils and parents in a safe, structured and sensible way.”

Photo by Tobias Heine from Pixabay

Minister says non-essential shops could reopen if Covid-19 cases continue to fall

Economy Minister Ken Skates has hinted that non-essential shops could reopen if the number of coronavirus cases continue to decline over the next two weeks.

Under the current lockdown regulations only essential shops, petrol stations and garden centres can open in Wales, provided social distancing rules can be applied.

Last week the Welsh Retail Consortium called on the government to give a date from when non-essential retailers can reopen their stores.

The UK Government announced last week that shops in England can reopen on 15 June.

Speaking at Wednesday’s government press conference, Mr Skates said if there is “headroom” then “non-essential retail” will be foremost in the government’s mind with the next review of the lockdown due to take place next week.

The minister noted there was a “regular rhythm in place of reviews every three weeks, ”  adding: “At the last review point, the first minister stated that the next three weeks would offer us an opportunity to look at how non-essential retail would be able to operate.

“The next review point is on June the 18th, when the first minister will be saying something about other areas of the economy.”

Following last week’s review of the coronavirus lockdown regulations the government said it will not update its advice until 18 June but urged businesses to prepare for reopening ahead of the next review by putting the necessary safety measures in place.

Mr Skates also indicated the government “hopes to be able to say something positive” for the tourism industry, suggesting that was a possibility at one of the regular reviews of the restrictions in July.

Nine more people have died with coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of deaths due to the virus to 1,419.

There were 38 new confirmed cases of the virus in the last 24 hours raising the total number of those infected to 14,518. There were 3,288 Covid-19 tests carried out yesterday.

Swab test. Photo by Ewa Urban from Pixabay

Minister announces tests for all care home staff.

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services has announced in a written statement that from next Monday all care home staff will be offered a weekly coronavirus test.

The tests will be self-administered swabs and are being made available initially for a four week period.

Mr Gething said: “We are keeping it under review, following this point we will assess the impact and consider next steps to ensure that we can continue to safeguard our care homes.”

Earlier this week the minister confirmed there have been 11 in-service deaths of health board employees from Covid-19, responding to a question from Plaid Cymru MS Leanne Wood.

He also revealed the number of nursing and residential home employees in Wales who have died as a result of Covid-19 is unknown, noting the government were “not in a position to provide a full picture of nursing/residential home employees.”

Plaid Cymru launches post-coronavirus economic plan

Plaid Cymru has launched and new economic strategy it says can “re-boot” Wales in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.

The Emergency Economic Renewal Plan proposes:

1. An Employment Guarantee Scheme for 18-24-year-olds – with a Future Wales Fund which would offer a job to every unemployed 18-24 year-old in Wales.

2. A plan to “reskill” Wales by giving every unemployed person over 24 years old a one-off, tax-free payment of £5,000 designed to help them reskill and find employment.

3. An All-Wales Renewal Fund to support activity to:
· Transform sectors identified as being hit hardest by Covid-19.
• Build a sustainable Wales, paving the way to a Carbon free nation by 2030.
• Develop a new sense of ‘localism’ which values public services.

Beyond the first five years, the All-Wales Renewal Fund should be boosted by a long-term £20 billion bond, repayable over thirty years. This would enable us to invest in building the Wales of the future, creating:

• A National Endowment Fund: Giving our universities the income to transform Welsh science and R&D generating new ideas for a new economy and innovations in health and public services.

• A Green New Deal: Thousands of new jobs through infrastructure investment in clean energy, energy efficient homes and sustainable transport.

• Supporting local business: Extra support for the Development Bank of Wales to lend to small businesses, new and old, to create post-Covid jobs.

• Social Infrastructure: Immediate benefits to daily life through new housing and improved health and education facilities.

Returns from the All Wales Renewal Fund would repay the costs of investment. It would secure a more sustainable country for future generations and share prosperity and opportunity equally.

Introducing the plan, Plaid Cymru MS and Shadow Minister for the Economy, Tackling Poverty and Transport, Helen Mary Jones, said: “The Coronavirus isn’t just a health crisis – it is an economic crisis. It has also highlighted societal inequalities and the vulnerabilities of day to day living for many people in Wales – and the instability of our current ‘lifeboat’ economy.

“Plaid Cymru’s Renewal Plan includes radical proposals that should be adopted without delay to protect livelihoods, re-boot the economy and ensure that we build back better. These proposals are just the start. But we need that start to be made now.”

Kirsty Williams AM Education Minister. Photo National Assembly for Wales and licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tertiary Education bill put on hold

The Welsh Government has put off the introduction of the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill until after next year’s Senedd election.

Announcing the postponement in a written statement, Education minister Kirsty Williams explained the bill was being delayed due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the UK Government’s refusal to extend the Brexit transition period beyond December.

She reiterated that the bill remained “a very high priority” and indicated the government will be publishing the bill in draft for consultation as soon as possible.

“ I would welcome scrutiny from the Senedd to ensure we can develop cross-party support, and wider civic support, for these reforms as we move towards the next Senedd term,” She wrote.

“This was not an easy decision to make, and one I wish we did not have to make. With another education bill being introduced and the constraint on resources brought about by Covid-19, we have concluded that the Bill introduction is postponed. This is further compounded by the unwillingness of the UK Government to extend the Brexit transition period which will require us to divert significant legal resources in the autumn term to deal with the legislative impact of that decision.”

 

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