School staff must wear masks in classrooms and all other areas when they are with children unable to socially distance when they re-open after half term.
The advice in updated Welsh Government guidance for schools re-opening to more pupils from February 22 adds that the masks should be three-layered.
“Face coverings should be high quality three-layered as set out by the World Health Organisation, but do not need to be medical grade face masks,” the document says.
When schools do re-open to more children no staff should move between contact groups, which should be no more than one class, the guidance adds.
The Welsh Government has announced that the youngest children aged three to seven can start returning to school from February 22 and that older children in exam years should have access to schools.
The updated re-opening guidance also includes new advice on Covid tests for staff and risk assessment.
Staff will be offered twice weekly rapid result coronavirus tests. Lateral flow tests will be provided but will be voluntary.
The document insists schools are safe but it is too early to bring all learners back.
“Although we are now in a position where we can support our youngest children to return to face to face learning, continuing with limited attendance and remote learning for all other learners does not suggest that schools and colleges are no longer safe places. Education settings do not pose an increased risk to teachers or children.
“Instead this is about continuing to limit the amount of community transmission. The intention is to proceed cautiously to ensure rates of Covid 19 do not start growing exponentially again.”
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On masks the document says: “If during this time of limited attendance social distancing cannot be maintained, particularly with the youngest learners, face coverings should be worn anywhere on the school estate, including in the classroom by staff at primary and secondary schools and secondary school learners.
“The exception is at mealtimes and when they are outside, unless the school risk assessment indicates that additional measures are needed, e.g. on a school yard where there are a large number of learners in a relatively small space without separation of contact groups (such as when waiting to enter school).
“Frequent putting on and taking off of face coverings is not recommended as this can risk contaminating hands and face; if learners are outside for a short period it may be easier to keep face coverings on. Learners should not wear face coverings when running round, playing football or other active games. “
Masks do not need to be worn on school transport by primary school children.
Schools will also be legally required to review and update their risk assessments, the guidance says. This means they may need to add to controls brought in when schools re-opened after the first lockdown in September.
Schools have already been told in that guidance to provide measures such as adequate hand washing and sanitising facilities, one way systems, and ventilation.
A second document on priorities for learning has also been updated. It says : “as we move toward recovery schools and settings will need to address gaps in learning due to Covid as well as ensuring learners develop further.”
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