Agenda item

Agenda item


To consider a report on how the regional consortium, in partnership with the Local Authority, has evolved and adapted to support schools during the COVID pandemic and how schools adapted to the new ways of working in response to COVID-19 restrictions and the impact on future education delivery practices (copy attached)


10:05am – 11:00am



The Lead Member for Education, Children and Young People alongside the Corporate Director: Communities introduced the Work Programme and Support to Schools during the Covid Pandemic report (previously circulated).  The report summarised how education and schools had tried to deliver the best education in difficult times.  Outlined within the report and appendices were the educational offer provided to all pupils in the county, an assessment of the main outcomes and impact of that work to date along with any other outcomes and impacts identified.  It also outlined details of further work required to strengthen all aspects of education delivery in future.  The time had been very challenging.  Two officers from GWE were also in attendance to answer queries.


The regional service, GwE, in its entirety had refocused several times during this period to meet the needs of the range of stakeholders. The ability to be flexible and agile to work effectively together in different teams, often cross sector, had significant impact on organisational behaviour and external perception


Regular contact with school leaders had been well received and had contributed to Head teachers feeling that they could turn to a professional colleague to share challenging issues and to find solutions to address day-to-day issues.


Support for senior leaders’ well-being had been provided through a series of workshops and webinars which supported their resilience during this difficult period. These were held weekly and were extremely beneficial. GwE staff were also conducting face to face pastoral visits to schools during the autumn term on behalf of the Local Authorities.


The six local authorities and GwE had taken a collective regional approach to supporting schools throughout the COVID pandemic. This was clearly demonstrated in the consistent regional approach in developing a supportive framework to ensure that all regional schools had the right policies in place together with a comprehensive risk assessment in order to create a safe environment to welcome the children back into schools.


Schools causing concern prior to lockdown had received support throughout the period. Teachers had been guiding pupils and parents through blended learning. The schools were delivering on education and parents received reports on their child’s development. Many schools acknowledged that parental engagement had been a key factor in securing effective distance/blended learning. GwE and the Local Authorities had and continued to provide a range of guidance to support schools to improve parental engagement, including the sharing of good practice.


The Committee was assured that any pupils who required any IT equipment for school their school work were assisted to gain access to it.  The Lead Member informed the Committee that to the Service’s knowledge no pupils were without the required IT equipment.


The Lead Member placed on record his personal thanks to all Education, Children’s Service, Health and Safety, school support, catering and maintenance staff for all their hard work which had enabled schools to reopen and also to provide blended learning.


During the ensuing discussion the Committee –


·         The Committee thanked all staff for all their hard work during this difficult time.

·         raised concerns about the IT issues some children may experience whilst conducting hybrid learning, i.e. there may be bandwidth issues arising from a number of family members attempting to use the internet at the same time, due to home-schooling and home working.  Some households may be in area where internet access was patchy or extremely poor.  Also some larger families may have to share hardware which could affect learning. The lead officer clarified that if there were any issues with hybrid learning, parents were advised to raise the matter with the school, who would in turn contact the Council if the school itself could not solve the problem. However, any internet connection issues were not within the control of the local authority.

·         queried whether teaching assistants and cleaners were at high risk and whether they were likely to be given priority for vaccination.  Members felt that it was important that the Council supported those who were nervous of the virus. The Corporate Director: Communities informed the Committee that the vaccine rollout was determined by the Government, based on scientific advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), local government had no control over it.  However, the prioritisation list did include staff who worked in special schools and who provided personal care to pupils.  In the meantime, the Council would continue to support school staff with information and advice from both Welsh Government (WG) and Public Health Wales (PHW).

·         raised concerned about the effectiveness of learning, as everything revolved around digital learning.  Was sufficient support available and were more practical skills such as craft work being taught.  Was any encouragement given to parents to teach through different methods. Officer advised that activity packs were available and provided to pupils to help them to learn via various methods rather than just through hybrid learning.

·         raised concerns in relation to the short lead-in time between WG announcements and their implementation dates, and the pressures this caused local government. The Lead Member assured the Committee that both he and GwE officials repeatedly raised concerns about this with the WG and would continue to do so.  Denbighshire County Council had taken the decision to keep schools closed until later in January to allow teachers to be prepared for the New Year, contrary to what the WG wanted.

·         queried whether there had been support available for non-Welsh speaking parents to support children learning through the medium of Welsh. Children attending Welsh-medium education would receive more Welsh interaction in schools and this could not be matched digitally.  The Service was working with parents and children to try and encourage as much Welsh as possible. This was one of the biggest challenges with hybrid learning at the moment.


Resolved: - subject to the above observations –


(i)   to accept the comprehensive information received on how the regional consortium, in partnership with the local authority, had evolved and adapted their support to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and how schools had adapted to the new ways of working in response to the restrictions in force, along with the lessons learnt and the impact on future education delivery practices;

(ii)  to commend all GwE, Local Authority Education and Children’s Services staff and all school based staff on their achievements in adapting and delivering high quality education to the county’s pupils both remotely and in safe school environments whilst also providing well-being support; and

(iii)that a message be sent to all local authority Education and Children’s Services staff along with all staff involved with delivering services to schools to thank them for their diligent work in securing the safe delivery of education and well-being services to pupils during the course of the pandemic.  



Supporting documents: