‘Snow days’ to become a thing of the past as schools move towards online learning after Covid
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
One of the pleasures of snow days growing up was not just the sight of the world transformed by a glistening blanket of sledgeable snow, but also knowing that there would be no school that day.
But ‘snow days’ could now be a thing of the past, with Blaenau Gwent the first to announce that the growing capacity for online teaching – as became common during the Covid pandemic – means that in future children in the county borough will be expected to attend lessons virtually if their school has to close due to severe weather.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Education and Learning Scrutiny committee on Tuesday, March 15, councillors discussed a report which covered the latest phase of the pandemic and looked toward the future.
Director of education, Lynn Phillips said: “Hopefully we will be coming to a more settled period and the focus is on recovery and renewal.”
Mr Phillips explained that a working group made up of headteachers had been set up by the council.
This group will look at how lessons can be learnt from the pandemic that can be used to improve education standards in the county.
Mr Phillips said: “We are working toward building back better, we don’t just want to go back to where we were pre-pandemic.
“We want to make sure we learn from the pandemic and make things better.”
Cllr John Hill said: “We’ve learnt a lot particularly around IT, and I’m concerned there a danger we’ll throw that away.
“Is there anything you are looking at to keep some kind of IT or hybrid learning even combined lessons across schools if it works well – anything like that in the pipeline?”
Mr Phillips said: “Where there is appropriate access to IT devices in the home, when we have adverse weather conditions it does mean that meaningful education can continue as opposed to what is known as a snow day.
“That’s an example of the type of thinking that we are putting in place.”
Lynn Phillips added that work was being done to set up a 5G classroom at a school in the Ebbw Vale area and that it would be good for councillors to visit it – following the May election.
With the Welsh Government’s Covid Hardship Fund ending on March 31, the burden of dealing with any future costs of dealing with Covid-19 will fall on individual school’s budgets.
Mr Phillips said that the education budget for 2021/22 forecast a £177,000 surplus position at the end of December, but the department were still paying towards the pandemic costs, such as specialised cleaning.
Mr Phillips said: “There will be an expectation that those additional costs are met from school budgets.
“The council did take the opportunity of uplifting the individual school budget by 8.4 per cent.”
This 8.4 per cent is the equivalent of a cash increase of £3.91 million.
Councillors approved the report.
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