Posted: Thu 10th Dec 2020

Call for primary schools in Wales to follow secondary schools and close early for Christmas

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Dec 10th, 2020

A union has called on the Welsh government to allow primary schools to close early for Christmas following today’s decision to let secondary schools across Wales shut next week.

Earlier today education minister Kirsty Williams confirmed secondary schools and colleges in Wales will move to online learning from Monday in ‘national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus.’

The move to allow secondary close schools across Wales comes on the same day the United Nations said that nationwide closures of schools should be avoided at all costs.

Head teachers of Flintshire secondary schools took the collective decision yesterday to close their schools next week and move pupils to online learning.

Following the announcement by the minister earlier today, a number of Welsh councils have now taken the decision to close their primary schools early ahead of the Christmas break.

In Wrexham primary school heads and the council had already agreed to close their schools by next Thursday (December 17), although some might close sooner if they need to.

The Minister made it clear that, “thanks to the efforts of education staff across the country, schools and colleges are safe and secure environments, with almost half of all Welsh schools having had zero covid cases since September.”

In Flintshire, 34 of the 64 primary schools in the county have had at least one COVID-19 case amongst children and, or staff.

All 11 secondary schools in Flintshire have seen at least one positive case since the start of term according to Public Health Wales data.

Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru said it was “the right decision for secondary schools given the circumstances.”

But she said “we are bitterly disappointed for primary schools and their families.”

Ms Doel said: “This decision ignores Welsh government’s own advice on pre-isolating before seeing extended family over the Christmas holidays.”

“In allowing households to mix over Christmas, the government passed responsibility for making Covid safety decisions on to individuals. But it is not allowing them the flexibility to decide their own priorities.”

She said: “Many parents will simply vote with their feet and keep children at home anyway. “Attendance figures in Primary schools in Wales may now plummet in the last week of term, and there will be no mechanism in place to continue learning because school sites will remain open.”

“Schools do not have sufficient staff and resources to simultaneously teach virtually and stay open.” If all school sites closed and switched to distance learning, at least children would be able to carry on with their education.” Said the union leader.

“Since the announcement was made this afternoon, we are receiving calls from local authorities across Wales who are making their own decisions to switch to blended learning in primary schools from next week to allow families and school staff to adhere to the government’s own advice on pre-isolation. Once again we will have a mixed economy across Wales.” Ms Doel said.

She added: “The Minister says she is acting specifically on the Chief Medical Officer’s advice relating to secondaries and that closing secondary schools will reduce the R rate.

“We call on the CMO to review the situation in primary schools as a matter of urgency so schools can continue to support their children with learning at home.”

“Once again there was no mention at all of special schools, where staff who support children with incredibly complex needs are seeing high numbers of Covid cases.”

Sally Holland

Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland the decision to close secondary schools was not the right on for children.

She said: “On the day the UN publicly stated that nationwide closures of schools should be avoided at all costs and that the benefits of keeping schools open, far outweigh the costs of closing them, this is not the right decision for children and young people in Wales.

“Whilst accepting the severity of the public health emergency and the responsibilities all of us have to keep each other safe, this decision compounds the disruption to our children’s education over the last few months.

“I have yet to see any scientific advice which supports today’s decision nor an assessment of the impact this will inevitably have on our young people. I have also not seen an explanation of the decision addressed to the young people affected by this at such short notice. I therefore cannot support this decision at this point in time.

“I urge the Government to publish with urgency its assessment of children’s rights considerations and scientific advice on which this decision is based.”

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