There is a great deal of information on social media and elsewhere about coronavirus, but sadly a great deal of this information is misleading or inaccurate. Below you’ll find Questions & Answers on a range of issues provided by Welsh Government. This listed will be updates daily as information arrives.
If you have a question that isn’t covered below, please contact my team on 01443 406400 or [email protected]
You can also find the official coronavirus statements from Welsh Government here.
Coronavirus Q&A – volunteering
Q Can I do voluntary work under the new stay-at-home rules?
Yes, you can – the new rules allow you to go out to provide care or help to a vulnerable person, including emergency help. This includes getting food and medicines for them.
But it is really important you do not put yourself or the person you are caring for at risk. You should always observe the 2m rule and strict handwashing guidance.
Anyone who has symptoms or is self-isolating should stay at home – but they can still volunteer by taking part in home-based phone or social media befriending schemes. People in at risk groups – people who are over-70, pregnant or have an underlying condition – should also stay at home but can also take part in home- based phone or social media befriending schemes.
There many opportunities to volunteer while you are staying at home. Many County Voluntary Councils and volunteer groups are looking for people to befriend people over the phone through a regular phone call.
Please visit www.volunteering-wales.net
Q How do I protect myself and others while I’m volunteering?
You should only volunteer if you’re feeling well and do not have any symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature and a new and persistent cough).
No one should be put under pressure to volunteer and you shouldn’t volunteer if you’re in an at-risk group – over 70, pregnant, or have a pre-existing health condition – or if you have received a letter asking you to take shielding measures because you are extremely vulnerable to serious illness if exposed to coronavirus.
If you are able to volunteer to deliver shopping or medicines to a friend or a neighbour please do not put yourself or the person you are caring for at risk. You should always observe the 2m rule and strict handwashing guidance.
Wales Council for Voluntary Action has a helpful guide Community response to Covid-19 – enabling safe and effective practice on its website: www.wcva.cymru
More help and advice is available at www.gov.wales/safe-help
Further information about staying away from others is at https://gov.wales/staying-home-and-away-others-guidance
Q Can I volunteer if I’m self-isolating or staying at home?
Not all volunteering opportunities involve going outside. One of the most important things you can do during the coronavirus pandemic is to stay in touch with other people.
While you are staying at home, you can help people by volunteering to make calls, either over the phone or via social media. A ‘hello’ or check-in over the phone can be really important, but please stay safe on social media.
There many opportunities to volunteer while staying at home. Many County Voluntary Councils and volunteer groups are looking for people to befriend vulnerably people who feel isolated over the phone through a regular phone call. You can also help by coordinating volunteers who want to be a telephone befriender.
More information is available at www.volunteering-wales.net
Q I’m in an at risk group and don’t have any family to help me. Can I get help from a volunteer?
If your friends or neighbours aren’t able to help, please contact your local volunteer centre (County Voluntary Council) for help and advice. Contact details are available here.
Q My organisation needs volunteers, what should I do?
If you need volunteers to help with coronavirus-related response, you can register through Volunteering Wales and start adding and offering your own opportunities.
Contact your local county voluntary council (CVC) for support and guidance about organising volunteer activities.
Q Is the Welsh Government providing extra support for volunteers during the pandemic?
The Welsh Government has announced a fund of £24m to support Wales’ voluntary sector in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Welsh Government Third Sector Covid-19 Response Fund will support volunteers and groups, which coordinate volunteer action across Wales. This includes additional support for your local volunteer centre (County Voluntary Council).
The funding will provide immediate support for Wales’ most vulnerable and help coordinate the thousands of volunteers who want to help others during the current crisis.
A further £15m will ensure people in Wales who not able to leave their homes are able to get direct deliveries of food and other essential items to their door. There are approximately 75,000 people in Wales identified as being at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus.
Q Does Wales have enough volunteers?
We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people from across Wales who want to support the NHS, their local services and their communities during this very difficult time.
People have been offering their time to help others and businesses have been offering their company resources, buildings and even entire production lines to support Wales’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March 1, more than 3,760 new volunteers have signed up via the County Voluntary Council (CVC) websites and thousands of people are visiting the Volunteering Wales website every day to enquire about volunteering opportunities.
We welcome everyone’s help and support.
Q How can I volunteer?
You can register as a volunteer through the Volunteering Wales website. Volunteers should expect there to be some kind of application process and may be asked to sign up to a code of conduct by the organisation.
Q What if I need to use my own car?
In most circumstances, out-of-pocket mileage expenses will be refunded but this will depend on what volunteer work you are doing.
Q What are the restrictions on volunteering?
Some volunteer roles may require a background check. Other roles may require an enhanced DBS check – where these checks are needed, they should be clearly identified.
Coronavirus – support for businesses Q&As
Q What support is available for businesses to deal with coronavirus? The Welsh Government announced a £1.4bn business support package on March 18 to help companies across Wales.
- The new package provides retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in Wales with a year-long business rates holiday in 2020-21;
- A grant of £25,000 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000;
- A £10,000 grant to all businesses eligible for small business rates relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.
As far as possible, the rates relief will be operated through the non-domestic rates system for 2020-21. We will reduce the red tape for businesses to receive grants.
Q Does this match the support available in England?
Yes – this matches the measures the Chancellor announced this week for businesses in England, and provides a much-needed boost for small businesses in Wales, which are at the heart of our economy and are struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Q Is this the only support available to businesses in Wales?
This £1.4bn package extends the emergency £200m rates relief support we were able to announce on March 17.The Development Bank of Wales is offering all its business customers a three-month capital repayment holiday to help them manage the financial fallout from the virus.
Extensive advice and support is available from Business Wales – https://businesswales.gov.wales/ or 03000 6 03000.
The childcare offer will continue to be paid to local authorities and childcare settings, which currently receive payments for children in their care, even where services are disrupted.
The UK Government has announced a temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This will be available to businesses in Wales via the British Business Bank. The HMRC Time to Pay scheme applies in Wales https://www.gov.uk/difficulties-paying-hmrc
Economy Minister Ken Skates is holding an emergency meeting of the Council for Economic Development and will meet banks on March 19 to discuss what further support businesses will need to manage the coronavirus outbreak.
We are working on a package of further support for small businesses, which will not benefit from the schemes already announced.
We are absolutely committed to providing the support and assurance the business community needs. A small taskforce is being set up to look at wider support needed for the economy during the recovery phase.
Q What support is available to businesses who have to pay sick pay?
The UK Government is bringing forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to coronavirus. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows: This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19 Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
- Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
- Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
- The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
- The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.
Q Is further support needed from the UK Government?
We believe the UK Government needs to be more ambitious in its support for business. The First Minister wrote to the Chancellor setting out a range of UK-wide interventions he could take to support the economy during the coronavirus outbreak (a copy of the letter is available via the @FMWales Twitter account).
We believe the UK Government should be considering a National Insurance holiday and financial support for wages.
Q Where can businesses get help and advice?
- Business Wales https://businesswales.gov.wales/ or 03000 6 03000.
- The Development Bank of Wales https://developmentbank.wales/ or 0800 587 4140.
- The Welsh Revenue Authority https://gov.wales/welsh-revenue-authority or 03000 254 000 for queries related to Welsh taxes.
- HMRC Coronavirus Helpline 0800 015 9559.
Coronavirus and Schools Q&A
Q When are schools in Wales closing?
Schools across Wales will close for the statutory provision of education by 20 March 2020.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams’ statement is available at https://gov.wales/statement-minster-education-kirsty-williams-school-closures-wales
Q Why are schools closing?
We are acting on a change of expert advice and increasing numbers of staff who are self-isolating.
Q When will schools open again?
We cannot assume schools will re-open for normal classes after the Easter break – this situation is being kept under constant review.
From next week, schools will have a new purpose. They will help support those most in need, including people involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak. We are working across government and with local government to develop and finalise these plans.
The key areas we are looking at are supporting and safeguarding the vulnerable and ensuring continuity of learning. We are looking in detail at how we can support and safeguard all those who benefit from free school meals and children with additional learning needs.
Distance learning is available through Hwb www.hwb.gov.wales
Further information will be made available as soon as possible.
Q What about exams this year?
The Education Minister has been discussing options with Qualifications Wales and WJEC, which are in the best interests of learners in Wales. There are no easy choices.
Together, they have agreed the best way forward is not to proceed with this year’s summer exams. Learners due to sit their GCSEs and A-levels this summer will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work, drawing on the range of information that is available, including coursework.
We will not be using the results to publish performance measure outcomes in 2020.
Q Are childcare settings closing?
We are not calling on childcare settings to close at this time. This will be kept under constant review.
There are a significant numbers of parents across Wales who need to be in work, including staff working in the NHS, in our emergency services and in our critical national infrastructure – it is important these families can access childcare for their children which is safe, and which they can trust;
We are working with local authorities and the childcare sector to ensure we have safe places where these children, and our more vulnerable children, can go.
Q But will childcare settings still be supported financially if the number of children attending falls?
Childcare settings are not being required to close at this time. This will be kept under constant review.
Welsh Ministers have agreed if a setting is closed on medical advice or if children are not able to attend due to Covid-19, existing government funding will still be made available. This will include funding for the childcare offer for Wales.
This funding will also continue where staffing numbers fall to a level that the setting is no longer safe to operate.
Welsh Ministers also expect local authorities to maintain payments for childcare provided under Flying Start and for the provision of early education.
The childcare offer for Wales provides 30 hours a week of government-funded early education (FPN) and childcare for eligible working parents of three to four-year-olds, for up to 48 weeks of the year. This is available throughout Wales.
Childcare settings that do not currently have government-funded places should also be eligible for assistance under the wider packages of support for businesses being put in place across Wales and the UK.
Q What will the role of schools be after Friday 20 March?
Schools are a cornerstone of communities, providing much more than simply education. In these challenging times, schools will become an essential part of the effort to respond to the huge challenge of COVID-19. Schools and school staff will be central to keeping the NHS running as well as other services which are vital to how we live.
From next week, schools should close to children and young people with the exception of providing care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home. School buildings should remain open for this purpose and we expect that headteachers and school staff will be in school next week and should expect to continue to work, having regard to the latest advice on social distancing and self-isolation.
We are having daily conference calls with local authority leaders, and the expectation is that during the next 1-2 weeks there will be practical, local-level ways of working established to deal with the immediate challenges. We will be working with LAs to put in place longer-term, resilient arrangements in relation to school settings.
Following the end of the Easter holidays, all schools will also need to enable the continuation of learning remotely for their learners. We will be keeping the situation under constant review.
Q What education and services are we expecting schools to provide for the next two weeks?
For the next two weeks, we are asking schools, working with local authorities, to focus on providing care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.
We are having daily conference calls with local authority leaders, and the expectation is that during the next 1-2 weeks there will be practical, local-level ways of working established to deal with the immediate challenges. We are working with local authorities to put in place longer term and resilient arrangements.
We would also expect schools and staff over that time to look at how they can ensure continuing learning for all pupils. We will provide further guidance as the situation develops.
Q Will schools re-open on 6 April or 20 April?
The last day of term will be 20 March. Schools will be closed to the majority of pupils for at least 4 weeks from then. It is not our expectation that schools will be opening and functioning as normal at the end of the Easter holidays i.e. on 20 April. This will be kept under constant review, based on the latest public health advice.
We expect, however, that head teachers and school staff will be in school next week and should expect to continue to work, having regard to the latest advice on social distancing and self-isolation.
Q How should schools continue to provide learning to pupils who aren’t in school?
We want children and young people to be able to continue learning despite the closure of their school, and we are putting in a range of measures to ensure this happens. These include making access to technology available to children and families who do not have it; making sure the software and resources that learners need are available; and, supporting Heads, teachers and parents with guidance on how to make the best of the technology.
We recognise that school closure could be for more than a few weeks, so we need to support schools to be the best they can be in continuing teaching and learning. But also in supporting their learners, in ensuring progression in learning, and in making sure that, when things get back to normal, the impact has been as small as we can make it. We will be providing details of the approach to continuing learning in the week beginning 23rd March.
Q What should schools be doing to protect the health and well-being of learners and staff?
The spread of COVID-19 and the response measures will impact on health and well-being within school community. These go beyond the immediate risk of infection. Social distancing and self-isolation will impact on physical and mental and emotional health, while all members of the school community will be faced with the risk or reality of losing loved ones.
Whether working remotely or not:
- There needs to be added focus on pastoral care and activities to support mental well-being. Guidance should emphasise giving support and care for learners and staff. This should draw on and point to the wide range of support services available.
- Schools/settings should uphold, promote and (where open) adhere to social distancing guidance.
- Schools/settings should give greater priority to ensuring learners are active providing more non-contact activities which promote physical activity e.g. games, dance, use of online exercise videos.
- School/settings should also recognise the importance of developing strong relationships in supporting everyone’s mental and emotional health.
Q How should schools communicate with parents during this period?
Communication with parents is critical. Schools should maintain open lines of communication with parents, providing solidarity for the community:
- Ensure school community, including parents, understand guidelines on social distancing and self-isolation. If staff or children have symptoms outlined in the guidance, then they should self-isolate and follow public health guidance.
- Communication with parents and communities should be: visible, calm, clear and factual. The success of the defence against COVID-19 relies on continuing social order. Trust in institutions and our approach is critical to this.
- In working with learners remotely, schools will need to ensure parents understand that learning will continue and how this will work.
- Some schools will have an enhanced role in the defence against COVID-19: enabling the country and in particular healthcare workers to function efficiently.
Q How will pupils eligible for free school meals continue to have access to them when schools close?
We appreciate how important free school meals are for the children and young people who receive them.
We are working closely with schools and local authorities across Wales to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals. For next week, this will mean a variety of solutions including collecting food from schools, or food delivered to home or community locations.
We are developing a Wales-wide approach to provide support through supermarket and shop vouchers. We are working with the Governments in Scotland and England on this, and further details will be available soon.
Q Will students on Initial Teacher Education (ITE) courses be able to complete them?
We have issued guidance to ITE providers who currently have students undertaking school placements. The guidance will advise ITE providers to cease schools placements with effect from this week in order to minimise the risk to students and to schools.
In order to ensure that the current cohort of ITE students are able to complete their courses the Welsh Government have advised ITE providers that they have the discretion to make an assessment of their students’ suitability for the award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) based on their periods of placement completed at this point in time.
When providers make this discretionary judgement then they will be required to issue individual learning plans to students setting out requirements for any areas that they have been unable to complete. Students would be required to undertake learning in these areas during their induction period and provide the relevant evidence to their induction provider in order to gain fully qualified status.
Any academic teaching that remains to be completed in this school year will be undertaken remotely through digital channels. This will enable the existing cohort to graduate and achieve QTS and enter induction in September.
Q What are you doing to reduce the burden on headteachers and schools in this unprecedented situation?
For a temporary period, schools have a new purpose. We will therefore be removing or relaxing requirements on schools which would be in place in normal circumstances. We will continue to keep this under review.
Estyn halted its inspection arrangements as of Monday 16 March, and we intend to temporarily relax requirements to undertake national tests and assessments and to report the outcomes, and requirements to undertake moderation.
We intend to temporarily relax requirements to undertake national tests and assessments and to report the outcomes, as well as requirements to undertake moderation.
We have cancelled all statutory data collections that would have been due to take place before the school summer holidays and have not yet started. Normal arrangements for reporting of Key Stage 4 and post-16 performance measures will be suspended for this year and we are also actively considering the associated arrangements and statutory requirements that depend on the availability of data.
Q What is your expectation with regards to special schools?
The safeguarding of vulnerable learners remains a critical priority. Local authorities have a duty to meet the needs of learners for whom it maintains a statement of SEN.
We are in contact with providers and are encouraging, where possible, where learners are no longer attending school, that alternative arrangements including online therapy, are considered. This includes simultaneous training of the workforce to enable this.
In the event of a special school closing, the local authority must consider alternative educational provision for learners for whom it maintains a statement of SEN.
Learners resident at care homes offering educational provision, which are either maintained by the local authority or are independent, would usually continue to be resident at the setting in the event of the school closing for a period of time.
Q Are summer examinations going ahead?
We have announced that, following advice from Qualifications Wales, the best way forward is not to proceed with summer exam series. Learners due to sit their GCSEs and A levels this summer will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work, drawing on the range of information that is available. We are still considering the fairest way to issue grades for learners who are studying qualifications other than GCSEs and A Levels. Qualifications Wales published an update on Friday 20 March on the issuing of grades for publication in summer 2020.
We won’t be using the grades awarded to publish performance measure outcomes in 2020.
Q How will you ensure that the decision to cancel summer examinations won’t have an adverse impact on students’ progression and life chances?
Learners due to sit their GCSEs and A levels this summer will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work, drawing on the range of information that is available. Qualifications Wales published an update on Friday 20 March on the issuing of grades for publication in summer 2020. We will be working with the sector to announce further details shortly. In determining how we proceed, the focus will be on what is in the best interests of learners both in terms of their current well-being and their future work, education or training.
Q Will learners have to sit the Numeracy (Reasoning) paper test this year?
No. The statutory requirement for learners to take this test and report the results will be removed.
Q Will learners be required to take the online personalised assessments in Numeracy (Procedural) and Reading?
The requirement for learners to take the personalised assessments and for schools to provide reports to parents and carers will be relaxed for this academic year.
Schools can take advantage of the flexibility of the online assessments and, where it is appropriate in their local circumstances, can schedule them to support learners’ progression when they are next able to do so. Many learners have already taken assessments in numeracy and reading, so schools can use the information from these to inform future planning. Where learners have completed the numeracy assessments schools will already have access to feedback on skills, age-standardised scores and progress reports. Feedback reports for the reading assessments are also available; but scores and progress reports will only be available once the majority of learners have taken the reading assessments. Given current circumstances this could be subject to a delay and we will provide a further update on this at a later date.
Q Will schools still be expected to undertake end of Key Stage 2 and end of Key Stage 3 teacher assessments?
No. We will be removing these requirements for the rest of this academic year. As a result, schools will not be required to report on the outcomes of the teacher assessments either.
Q Will moderation cluster groups be expected to meet between now and the end of the school year?
No. This statutory requirement will be removed for the rest of this academic year. As we will not require the assessments to take place, schools will not be expected to undertake the moderation process at the end of Key Stage 2 or at the end of Key Stage 3.
Q Will schools need to continue to provide written reports to parents and carers for the rest of this academic year?
We will be monitoring the situation regarding school closures and considering this statutory requirement in more detail over the coming weeks with the aim of easing the burden on schools wherever possible, whilst continuing to support learners in their development.
Q How will schools be expected to support pupils’ mental wellbeing during this challenging time?
Clearly this is a fast moving situation. Counselling is a key part of our response to the current situation, providing support for children and young people.
We would expect local authorities to ensure counselling provision continues to be made in the community and encourage them to also provide online counselling where appropriate.
The need for the provision of counselling will also be included in our plans for vulnerable students.
We know some providers have confirmed they have been making plans for the last month for contacts with clients during isolation and that most school clients are no longer attending school. As an example, one provider has made the decision to fully move to online therapy from Monday. It has trained its workforce on the delivery of therapy online. All clients have been contacted and have agreed to have therapy online.
Q What guidance does Welsh Government have for schools on dealing with bullying in relation to COVID-19?
We expect schools and education services to adopt a zero tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination, racially aggravated behaviour and bullying and to deal with all incidents vigorously, ensuring all pupils and staff are properly supported and respected.
Whilst COVID-19 appears to have originated in China, we need to tackle the incorrect impression that Chinese people are more likely to be spreading Coronavirus. We all need to work collectively to reinforce this message and challenge negative attitudes and behaviours, where they occur, that underpin this misconception. The Welsh Government suite of guidance ‘Rights, respect, equality’ provides statutory guidance and advice to help address and prevent all forms bullying in education settings in Wales, including racist bullying.
Q What is the position with independent schools?
The final decision on whether to bring forward the Easter break for pupils in an independent school is ultimately a matter for the proprietor. Although the Welsh Government cannot direct independent schools to follow the advice given to maintained education settings in Wales, we would encourage them to do so.
However, the Welsh Government recognises that some independent special schools and residential settings will need to continue to look after their pupils.
Q For which children should schools be providing care from next week?
The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of COVID-19 is clear. It is imperative that, as far as possible, we minimise social contact. This means that if children can stay safely in their home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.
Schools (and childcare and play settings) should only be open for those children that absolutely need to attend. Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings should continue to care for children wherever possible.
Schools should continue to provide care for as small a number of children as possible – children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.
Vulnerable children include those with safeguarding needs and supported by social care, which include children with care and support or support plans, children on the child protection register and looked after children, young carers, disabled children and those with Statements of special educational needs. The most vulnerable of these should be prioritised.
Further details on parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response are outlined in this statement. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be and only where there is no safe alternative should provision be made in schools or other settings.
To summarise, from Monday 23 March:
- if it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be
- if a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is critical to the Covid-19 response, then provision in an educational or childcare setting should be available for them
- parents should not rely for childcare on anyone who has been advised to follow the stringent social distancing guidance such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions
- parents should do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in ways which could contribute to spreading the virus. Children should observe the same social distancing guidance as adults
- residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings should continue to care for children wherever possible
Q Will Welsh Government still be expecting statutory data collection returns from schools?
We will not expect returns for all statutory data collections that would have been due to take place before the school summer holidays and have not yet started. This includes:
- Attendance: Primary 2020 data collection;
- Attendance: Secondary 2020 data collection;
- National Data Collection (NDC) 2020 data collection; and
- Welsh National Tests (WNT) 2020 data collection.
Q How about learners in years 10 and 12?
We understand that those learners in Years 10 and 12 due to take exams in the summer are keen to know whether they will have grades. This is a complex decision as there is a greater range of possible options available to learners who still have a year of further study. As such Qualifications Wales and WJEC have been asked to provide further advice on this.
In their update on Friday 20 March, Qualifications Wales stated that they are not planning to issue grades for AS Levels or for unit assessments taken by Year 10 learners in the same way as for GCSEs, A levels or Skills Challenge Certificates. For those learners, they are looking at a variety of options, including the opportunity to sit exams in subsequent exam series. We will share more detail on those plans as soon as we can.