Siân Gwenllian MS calls for additional measures to keep our schools safe – and open

More can be done to help protect school staff and pupils, according to Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Education, Siân Gwenllian MS.

Ms Gwenllian says that the Welsh Government’s current approach – with community lockdown as the lever they seem able to pull – is limited in its approach, and more could be done to stop educational premises having to close. These measures include:

  • Vaccination: Within each vaccination priority group, move school staff and other key workers, including those that drive school transport, to the top of the list. Children are not currently on the list of those due to receive a vaccine, so school workers could face higher exposure to the virus.
  • Testing: Early identification through school-wide testing is key, particularly when children can often be asymptomatic and yet still transmit the virus.
  • Ventilation: Aerosols containing coronavirus can aggregate in the air in closed indoor spaces such as classrooms. Plaid Cymru is calling for dedicated funding to help educational settings monitor and ventilate their premises adequately. Learners and school staff shouldn’t be prevented from wearing appropriate warm clothing in addition to any uniform. If children are fully prepared for cooler temperatures, then outdoor learning also becomes a possibility.
  • Social distancing in classrooms: When community transmission is high, schools should be given all options to enable socially distanced face to face learning. Including a rota system where a proportion of the class is on-site and the rest off-site. For this to be truly effective, all learners need adequate access to remote learning. While Wales remains in lockdown, and there are unused public buildings, schools should be given the option of using these, if they provide bigger indoor spaces.

Ms Gwenllian has renewed calls for a clear catch up education plan, including better monitoring and measurement of digital poverty in Welsh learners.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Education, Siân Gwenllian MS said,

“It’s been a year of disrupted education but surely the Labour Welsh Government has learnt some lessons about how to open schools safely in the meantime?

“The only lever government seems to be able to pull is lockdown. When community transmission is high, they lock us down, and schools inevitably close again. Only when infection rates have dropped in the community, do schools re-open. This approach, while simple, is far too limited.

“Parents, learners and staff need reassurance that the school environment is safe, and there are certainly things that can be done to give them confidence, such as more extensive use of ventilation, school workers moved to the top of their vaccine priority group, and schools must be given all options to enable adequate social distancing in classrooms.

“With a year of hindsight, it pains me to think how much more face to face education our children and young-people could have had, if Welsh Government had used all the tools in their gift earlier.”