EDUCATION MINISTER Kirsty Williams has published a policy statement called Stay Safe. Stay Learning. which aims to support learners, leaders, governors, practitioners, parents and carers in dealing with the impact of coronavirus.
The Minister launched the guidance on the day that marks the beginning of summer term making Wales the only UK nation to provide national guidance and tools in a coordinated way.
The Minister’s statement makes it clear that the Welsh Government’s priorities will continue to be:
- the safety and physical and mental health of all learners and the education workforce in Wales,
- the ability of all learners to keep learning,
- and learners’ transition back into school and onto the next phase of their learning when it is safe to do so.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “Over the last few weeks, our education system has faced significant disruption but, as always, it remains of central importance.
“Today marks the beginning of the summer term, but schools in Wales will not be re-opening their doors to all learners.
“In these circumstances our task is to find ways to help our children keep learning – this means enabling remote learning and planning for how we can best help children through this time.
“We must do all we can to mitigate the impact of school closures on our children, in particular those children who face socio-economic disadvantage, as well as learners with special educational needs that research shows will be most affected.
“Leaders and teachers have really stepped up during this crisis and have demonstrated agility and leadership; remote teaching will require a further adjustment to teaching and different way of working.
“We will also support parents and carers to support their children’s learning, recognising that, while they are a child’s primary educator, they are not teachers and being clear that we do not expect them to recreate school at home. They also have an important role in supporting schools as they would normally do.
“This provision will not mirror what schools would offer during normal times, but I’m confident schools working in partnership with parents and the wider education system will rise to the challenge of engaging our learners, as many are already doing”.
“I believe the most important thing in this time of unprecedented change and disruption is the safety and well-being of our children and our workforce and doing all we can to support the physical and mental well-being of our children and young people throughout this period.”
“Our Stay Safe, Stay Learning programme pulls together contributions from across education and beyond to provide support to the whole of our system in Wales.”
In the guidance, the Welsh Government says it will ensure Welsh medium, English medium and bilingual schools and learners will have the same entitlement to support and that particular attention will be given to learners in Welsh medium schools who live in households where Welsh is not spoken to help them find ways to maintain their exposure to the language.
The policy also addresses issues surrounding the reopening schools, on that the Minister said: “This will only happen when the scientific advice says it is safe to do so but, even then, we cannot assume that it will be an immediate return to business as usual.
“This means our remote learning support is likely to have a role to play alongside provision in schools.
“We also need to consider how to support schools in helping children re-integrate into the school setting when that time comes and determining what the focus of learning should be.”
The statement also acknowledges how Wales is well placed to support schools, practitioners, and learners through its world-leading digital platform Hwb but promises to utilise the technology even further.
The policy statement will now be followed with guidance for head teachers, teachers, teaching assistants, all school staff and parents and carers later this week, with more guidance and resources to be published week commencing Monday, April 27.
The Minister continued: “Our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and ensure an education system that is a source of national pride and enjoys public confidence, has driven progress for our learners, teachers, teaching assistants and all education staff and schools over recent years.
“We must not – and will not – lose sight of those shared ambitions for every single child during these extraordinary challenging times.
“We have published the policy statement today to provide reassurance and to let people know what to expect – we will be issuing further guidance for head teachers, teachers, teaching assistants, all education staff and parents and carers later this week.”
Parentkind CEO John Jolly said: “We welcome the clarity given to parents and carers by the Education Minister about the expectations placed on them during school closures, and commend the additional digital resources made available to help parents support their child’s learning at home.
“But we further value the message that parents aren’t expected to be teachers, and that all families must remember that it is essential to prioritise good mental and physical well-being throughout the home learning period.”