To consider any declarations of interests and dispensations made.
There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.
VERBAL UPDATE RESPONSE TO COVID-19
At the invitation of the Chair the Corporate Director of Education gave a brief strategic overview of both the education and schools response to COVID-19.
The latest position across Blaenau Gwent was 518 cases per 100,000 population. Blaenau Gwent was ranked 14th out of 22 local authorities across Wales regarding the amount of positive cases. However, indications from Environmental Health was that this was likely to approach circa 800 per 100,000 population over the next few days.
The highest incidence rates were across under 16 year olds and mirrored the current situation across Wales. The amount of incidences schools have handled over the last 14 days were 142 positive cases in the primary sector; and 274 in the secondary sector. The School Infection Control Framework had been put in place and in line with other authorities in the region, Blaenau Gwent was currently at a moderate level of response.
From a school workforce perspective, 40 positive cases had been identified, 23 confirmed positive cases, 5 fall into the vulnerable category, 7 identified as having new symptoms, 2 staff identified by TTP to self-isolate, 1 had received a positive lateral flow test and two members of staff with ongoing symptoms associated with long COVID. Schools had secured face to face learning for learners across the board, despite the challenges that they were facing. The Director confirmed that support services, both catering and cleaning were managing at this point in time. From a learner perspective, it was important to note that the vaccination programme for 12 to 15 year olds was rolling out and progressing well, and currently there were circa 60% of 12 to 15 year olds who had now been vaccinated.
From an Education perspective the Directorate had prioritised four areas; i.e. learner well-being, support for vulnerable learners, standards and progress for learners, and school operations. The Director felt it was important to have a strategic approach, consistency and commonality across the school estate.
A Member commented on the considerable increase of 518 cases and the expectation of further increases to 800 and enquired regarding the safety measures in place to keep children and staff safe. The Director of Education pointed out that the 518 per 100,000 figures related to the amount of positive cases across the whole of Blaenau Gwent and included positive cases within the school estate. With regard to the school infection control framework they work on a school by school basis to consider the risk mitigation that was needed. The Education Transformation team had been working with one secondary school around potential extra measures due to the amount of positive cases that they had, an example was that face coverings would be introduced in order to reduce any transmission of COVID.
The Service Manager Education Transformation & Business Change reiterated that education at this point in time were at moderate risk level and they were regularly reviewing the risk level in conjunction with colleagues in Environmental Health, Civil Contingencies and Public Health Wales. They were working on a localised approach to support schools with increased cases and were reviewing risk assessments and looking at operational considerations to target improvements wherever possible, whilst ensuring continuity of learning throughout that process. The team were working very closely with schools on a daily basis and also regular discussions with parents and community members.