No generation since the Second World War has faced the disruption to their learning lives that our children and young people now face, and this is especially true of learners undertaking qualifications. Whilst remote learning has become a ‘new normal’, albeit with the many challenges it has presented, learners in exam years have urgent current needs. This document therefore sets out our expectations of schools in respect of these learners whilst they are learning remotely; it should be read alongside the regularly updated guidance.

We are confident that all schools are engaging with all their learners regularly through digital and/or non-digital means, providing high quality, purposeful learning which motivates and engages learners across a broad and balanced set of topics. This guidance is specific to exam years, given the significant disruption to their education at a critical point in their progression.

For learners in exam years in 2021, the disruption could have a significant impact on outcomes, which we are all trying to mitigate. Welsh Government has invested significant resources in schools, regions and LAs to support live, blended and remote learning. The RRRS project has enabled schools to recruit additional staff to support learners.  Extra investments are being made in software, hardware and connectivity.

We thank all teachers and leaders for the progress they have made since March 2020 in providing learning to pupils and students under terrifically difficult conditions, but there is still much to do, which is why we are setting out the clear expectations below.

The set of expectations expressed here applies specifically at times when learners in years 10, 11, 12 and 13 are required to learn remotely, and for the period of the spring term until half term. We will review these expectations in February. The expectations apply whilst learners are not able to attend school premises and for the duration of their absence from classes.

  • We expect this group of learners to receive daily contact from their school in support of learning, motivation and well-being. We expect them to receive four hours of meaningful learning per day, which will be an engaging combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning and support, using digital and non-digital means as appropriate to the group and the subject. We are not setting out expectations at a level of detail below this – teachers and leaders know their schools and their learners, and are the right people to make detailed decisions about the design of their pupils’ and students’ learning.
  • We expect learning resources provided by schools to be of sufficiently high quality to enable learners to progress as closely as possible to how they would have progressed if they were in class. We expect resources and activities to reference and contextualise widely available content from sources including Hwb, WJEC, BBC, S4C and Universities.
  • We expect schools to support digitally excluded learners in accessing remote learning opportunities by distributing school devices with appropriate end user agreements. If there are problems in issuing devices or connectivity challenges, schools must report this to their local authority EdTech lead.
  • We expect schools to be aware of and record learners’ engagement with the remote learning offer.

In order to meet these expectations, schools and LAs have asked us to consider some of the guidance we have set out in the past. We have done this, and we are making two changes to the Live-streaming and video-conferencing guidance. Live synchronous provision of education – online lessons, for example – are not now described as voluntary, but should be part of the school’s toolkit to be deployed as school leadership sees fit. Also, the guidance that two adults need to be present in a remote live synchronous session has been removed, to enable school leaders to deploy teachers to learning as they see fit.