Emergency Situation Briefing (Verbal)
- Meeting of Education, Youth & Culture Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Thursday, 17th December, 2020 2.00 pm (Item 22.)
To update on the latest position and the risks and implications for Flintshire and service and business continuity.
That the verbal update be noted.
The Chief Executive referred to the Briefing Note he had circulated to Members earlier in the week and agreed for this to be sent to non-councillor members together with the Betsi Cadwaladr update on the Vaccination Programme and the Welsh Government (WG) document “Coronavirus Control Plan Alert Levels in Wales” which was published following the First Minister’s Statement. He referred to the implementation and speed of the new level 4 restrictions which the First Minister had announced earlier in the week which had included a clear list of services which were permitted to remain open. He reported on the encouraging pilot of the new Pfizer vaccine in a local care home in New Brighton which was a positive step forward.
The Chief Executive commented on the extensive press coverage on the major disparity of reporting of Welsh infection figures and to a discussion held with the Leader to assess the impact for Flintshire. The incidents rates were already in the system and that overall the numbers had not increased significantly. Once all the information on un-deferred cases were collated there would be a better understanding of the overall picture and it was hoped that Flintshire’s incidents rates did not rise as we entered the Christmas period.
The Leader of the Councillor commented that the situation in Wales was serious and reported on a telephone conference he had attended alongside the Chief Officer with all Head Teachers in the county regarding the re-opening of schools in January, 2021. He also reported on discussions with the Education Minister and other senior Ministers at WG regarding pupils returning in January.
The Chief Officer (Education & Youth) reported that WG had provided local authorities with flexibility with regard to the start of the new term but she reassured the committee that schools were open but that because of the impact and spread of the virus over the Christmas period the method of delivery of education may change. She confirmed the Council would be recommending that all schools should deliver online learning for the first week of the new term with as few pupils as possible entering the buildings but there would still need to be provision for vulnerable children and children and young people of key workers. WG had requested all face to face learning commence on the 18th January but the situation was constantly changing and discussions would be held with Head Teachers and Officers following the Christmas period to look at the advice, data and impact on schools to assess whether it was feasible to return to school or continue with the blended learning approach. Head Teachers were supportive of this approach but wanted to ensure parents were informed as soon as possible and that all arrangements
The Chair asked whether support for vulnerable and key critical worker pupils was being provided within the hub and said the impact on working parents having to arrange cover for children especially at short notice was a concern. He also sought clarification on the definition of “key worker”. In response the Chief Officer said that WG had been late sending out their list of keyworkers and schools did not have sufficient time to put arrangements in place. WG had been very clear in its guidance which would form part of the Covid legislation and included a definitive list for key workers. The Guidance stated that if either parent was a keyworker then they would be able to access that support for their children. This had been formally communicated to schools and at the meeting earlier today and she anticipated that this would not be an issue in January.
Mr Hytch asked if the provision for key workers for vulnerable children was being provided at the hub similar to what happened earlier in the year and was this information in the public knowledge at present. In response the Chief Officer confirmed it was agreed with Head Teachers that the communication would be sent to schools tomorrow as it was in the process of being translated. With regard to the Hub it was confirmed the council was not reverting to a resilience hub model as unlike the last lockdown, schools had operated in a Covid secure way since September and it was felt that they should make their own provision for their own vulnerable learners and their families. This had been endorsed by Head Teachers at the meeting that morning.
That the verbal update be noted.