Schools in Wales will reopen in phases according to the Welsh Government, and Education minister, Kirsty Williams, has set out her five key principles which will determine how that happens.
Schools are currently only open to children of critical workers and vulnerable children, with many local authorities adopting a hub approach rather than opening all schools in their area.
Speaking about the issue of when all pupils might return, the education minister said she “does not expect schools will be suddenly open for all pupils, from all years, all week”.
She has outlined five guiding principles which will determine when and how schools will return to providing education for most school pupils:
1. The safety, and mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing of students and staff
2. Continuing contribution to the national effort and strategy to fight spread of Covid-19
3. Having the confidence of parents, staff and students – based on evidence and information – so that they can plan ahead
4. Ability to prioritise learners at key points, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds
5. Consistency with the Welsh Government’s framework for decision making, to have guidance in place to support measures such as distancing, managing attendance and wider protective actions.
According to the Welsh Government, school provision will gradually adapt and extend further during the next phase, in line with changes to the current restrictions outlined by the First Minister last week.
Kirsty Williams has been assessing how schools had reopened in other countries.
The Liberal Democrat Minister said: “In working through these principles, I am keen that we take stock of what is happening elsewhere. Through Wales’s membership of ARC, I’ve been able to get a sense of what is happening across North and South America, Scandinavia and Australia.
“We are at different stages in the spread of the virus and wider health service responses. Norway will reopen at the end of this month for the very youngest pupils, following Denmark where pupils up to 12 years old have returned, but split into smaller classes and with strict hygiene and cleaning routines.”
She added that schools would not open suddenly and that parents would get notice before they reopened.
“Our latest understanding of the rate of transmission of Covid-19 allows us to be hopeful, but still requires us to be cautious.
“It is vital that parents, staff and students have confidence in returning to school. We will only enter the next phase when the evidence and advice suggests that it is the right thing to do
“I will communicate any decision to change the operation of schools well in advance of any required action, allowing school staff, pupils and parents to plan ahead.
“Schools will not immediately return to operating at full capacity. It will be a phased approach and I do not expect schools will be suddenly open for all pupils, from all years, all week.”
She also added that it was possible that schools could close again after opening.
She said: “The ongoing challenge of Covid-19 means we will prepare schools for a range of scenarios for the foreseeable future. However unlikely, we must prepare for an eventuality that requires schools to reduce operations at specific future points.
“I would like to thank all those working hard to ensure that schools and hubs are able to provide support for those who need it. As I have said previously, our teachers, support staff and childcare workers have proved themselves to be national heroes.”