Posted: Tue 23rd Feb 2021

Education minister: “My preference is to get all learners back in school after Easter break”

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

Secondary school pupils could return after the Easter break, education minister Kirsty Williams has said.

Foundation phase learners in Flintshire – those aged three to seven – began a phased return to schools this week.

First minister Mark Drakeford said on Friday “If the situation continues to improve over the next three weeks, we hope more primary school children and older students will be able to return from 15 March.

Children in years 11 and 13 in schools, and those doing similar qualifications and colleges will also able to return to face to face learning from March 15.

All schools in England will reopen to all pupils on 8 March under prime minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out announced on Monday.

During Monday’s Welsh government press conference, Kirsty Williams said: “The opening up of education remains our top priority as a government.”

“We’re now working on how we can see the safe return of more learners to schools and colleges.”

“We will confirm the situation for other learners before the Easter holidays.”

“But I can tell you now that my preference is to get all learners back in school after the break.”

“And I promise to provide further details on how this will look when I’m able to do so.”

Education Minister Kirsty Williams

Ms Williams also said the Welsh government will be “extending the offer” of regular, twice weekly, Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) at home to all those of upper secondary age.

This will start with offering tests to years 11 to 13 and all FE college learners and learners on work-based Apprenticeship and Traineeship programmes from March 15.

The government has said it hs already made rapid testing at home available to staff working in all registered childcare settings including Flying Start settings, schools and further education settings.

The aim is to quickly identifying those who are unknowingly carrying the virus so that they can self-isolate.

Laura Doel, director of teaching union NAHT Cymru, said: “We all want to see children back in schools as soon as possible. But we must guard against moving too quickly.”

“This is too important to get wrong. A third lockdown would be devastating to children’s education. It is far better to take our time now than to open too rapidly when the scientific consensus isn’t there.”

“Given that many schools are only reopening their doors to foundation phase this week, we need to be careful about giving parents and learners false hope. Statements about a full return after Easter are premature and unhelpful at this stage.”

“We need to see what impact the return of foundation phase has before looking at bringing anymore children back in.”

“We also need to know exactly what indicators the government is monitoring to make these decisions, and to make sure this information is clearly communicated to schools and Local Authorities so that they can act at a local level if community infection rates begin to rise.”

“Schools need to be supported and given details to act quickly if the situation on the ground warrants it.”

“Welsh Government must act cautiously and transparently to give confidence in their plans for return and to minimise further disruption to children’s education.”

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