Posted: Fri 12th Feb 2021

First Minister backs different decisions taken between Wrexham and Flintshire on return to school plans

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Feb 12th, 2021

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First Minister Mark Drakeford has backed the different decisions between Wrexham and Flintshire on return to school plans, as he pointed to the ‘flexibility’ of Welsh Government planning.

As it stands face-to-face learning in schools has been suspended for all years, excluding children of critical workers and vulnerable learners subject to certain criteria.

However the Welsh Government has indicated a preference for an all-Wales approach on the return for those aged between three and seven to school, with some local flexibility if required, starting from the 22nd of February.

This reopening plan would see the introduction of twice-weekly testing for staff members as well as increased financial support for new face coverings.

In north east wales Wrexham and Flintshire have had similar case rates, and have been trading the dubious title of being the worst in Wales.

This week the two local authorities have taken contrasting action on school reopening, with Wrexham opting for a more cautious approach, and Flintshire following the national plan from Welsh Government.

During Friday’s briefing our sister site asked the the first minister if Wrexham’s was the right option compared to Flintshire, and if he supported such localised decision making.

Mr Drakeford said: “We said in the very beginning that we would have a partial phased and flexible return to education for our three to seven year olds, and the reason for offering flexibility is that circumstances are different in different parts of Wales.

“Even between local authorities where the raw numbers may look similar, the on the ground arrangements for size of classes, the age of school buildings, and so on differs between one location and another. It was the deal we did with our local education authorities that they would have that flexibility.

“I am confident that every local authority is thinking very carefully about what is right in various set of circumstances. I’m glad they’ve got that flexibility.”

“All of that is being exercised against the background of a strong agreed position between the teachers, the local education authorities and the Welsh Government.

“We all want as many young people back in face to face education as quickly as we can manage it, but as safely as we can manage it and those circumstances will vary in different parts of Wales.”

The Daily Post asked the First Minister about the schools reopening, and raised concerns if adequate PPE will be guaranteed.

The first minister said:  “We have been working very hard with the teacher unions, and non-teacher unions and the local education authorities to put into place all the safeguards that we can identify with what our young people to be back in school, they have had a terrible year. But of course, that must be done in a way that is safe for them and safe for staff as well.

“We’ve identified additional safeguards as a result of the last couple of weeks discussions, we will be offering twice weekly lateral flow tests to staff in school, we’ve provided £5 million in additional funding to our local education authorities, so that they can provide higher grade face coverings for example, as additional protection.

“We continue to be in discussions with our colleagues in the teacher unions and in local councils, and if there are further ideas that allow us to strengthen those protections further, then of course, that is what we will do.

“The supply of PPE will come not directly from the Welsh Government, we fund the local authorities so that they’ve got supplies and the supplies are there for them. They will then provide those onwards for use in schools.”

You can view the full briefing from today on the below video:

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