Posted: Wed 6th Jan 2021

North Wales MS doesn’t expect schools to move back to face to face teaching on 18 January

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jan 6th, 2021

A North Wales Senedd member has said he doesn’t expect school children in Wales to return to face to face learning on January 18 and wants ministers to make an early decision on what should happen after that date.

The majority of school children across the UK are now learning from home for at least the next few weeks as governments try to control the spread of the coronavirus with tougher measures.

Schools in England are closed for face to face learning until after the February half-term at the earliest, in Scotland schools will remain closed for the whole of January.

Pupils at some schools in Wales were due to return to face to face learning today with others following on January 11 after ministers originally agreed a “flexible” approach with local authorities.

However, with a new coronavirus variant spreading across Wales, teachers’ unions called for face-to-face teaching to be suspended.

On Monday the Welsh government announced that all children in Wales will not return to classrooms until 18th of this month at the earliest.

Schools and colleges are however open for children of critical workers and vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments.

Flintshire council agreed before the Christmas break for schools in the county not to return to face to face learning until at least January 18 with pupils moving to online learning.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales this morning, Rhun ap Iorwerth, Deputy Leader of Plaid Cymru and Ynys Môn MS said he “can’t imagine” schools being told to reopen for face to face learning from January 18.

He said: “One of the things that I’m keen to see is government taking a very early decision on what should happen after that.”

The MS said teachers, school staff, pupils and parents need “more warning of what’s going to be happening the week after next.”

Mr Iorworth said, “government ministers will be looking at the facts and looking at the evidence that they have in front of them, but it’s very hard to see a decision being made to reopen schools from a week on Monday.”

“It seems as if we’re somewhere a little bit deeper than that in terms of the state of of the virus in large parts of Wales.”

He said: “It’s been a feature of the pandemic that decisions are made last minute, we had on an English level earlier this week a message at lunchtime they we’re going to close schools unless it’s the only option, a few hours later they decided to close schools until mid February.“

“I think where there are opportunities to make decisions be it on support for education or for businesses or for individuals who just want an idea of where they are and what they’re going to be able to do in the coming weeks, the earlier a decision can be made the better.”

“I don’t think it’s asking too much of the Welsh government to tell us what’s going to be happening in a week on Monday.” He added.

School support staff belonging to UNISON want Welsh schools to remain closed to face-to-face teaching for the whole of January.

The trade union has urged the Welsh government to urgently consider, as in England, staying closed until after the February half-term because of spiralling infection rates.

Staying closed for the whole of January would “allow Welsh government some time to review the latest scientific and medical advice.”

It would also allow schools time to review of risk assessments based on the new Coronavirus variant and to agree a plan for a properly resourced and implemented introduction of Lateral Flow Device testing in schools. According to the union.

UNISON Wales schools lead officer, Rosie Lewis said:

“This is a public health emergency and education should move online at least until February except for vulnerable children and those of key workers. We need an all-Wales approach rather than leaving decisions to local authorities.

“Welsh government must get this right instead of leaving parents, staff and whole communities confused and at risk.

“They need absolute assurance they are going to be safe when schools reopen. That includes prioritising all school staff for vaccinations. No school staff member should have to work where they face serious and imminent danger.

“Leaving the announcement to close schools so late was very disappointing and this has led to disruption for school staff, families and pupils. Welsh government has been aware of the concerns of school support staff and exactly how they want schools to be safe environments for some time because UNISON has been raising this with the Minister for weeks.

“We know reopening schools in February significantly impacts on parents and Welsh government should communicate to employers that workers are eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in these circumstances, so they could either be partially or fully furloughed if they are unable to work.”

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