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Education Minister sets out ‘thinking’ on return to schools

Written by on 15th May 2020

The Welsh Government has today published a document setting out how it is considering the next phase for schools, in response to COVID-19.

The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has described the working document as “setting out our current thinking” for how schools, other education settings and childcare providers’ operations will change to allow social distancing and other factors.

Most schools have been closed since the start of the pandemic, with some open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

The Decision framework for the next phase of education and childcare  builds on the five principles published by the Minister last month.

The Welsh Government is working with scientists, public health experts, teachers, education providers, trade unions and local authorities to consider the options for the next phase for schools and settings with similar challenges, such as childcare providers and further education colleges.

The First Minister today published a ‘roadmap’ for how the Welsh Government will move out of the lockdown phase.

Kirsty Williams said:

“As the Education Minister for Wales, I will make the decisions on how and when more pupils in Wales will return to school. Today I am sharing further information on how those decisions will be reached.

“Nothing would make me happier than seeing our classrooms full again. But I want to be clear that this framework does not – and I will not – set an arbitrary date for when more pupils will return to school. Setting a date before we have more evidence, more confidence and more control over the virus would be the wrong thing to do.

“This will not be one decision but a series of decisions over time increasing, or if need be, decreasing operation. These changes will be complex, with many different considerations. I want the working document to be a stimulus for wider discussion and feedback.

“I am sharing this today to be as transparent as possible. I want everyone to know the extent of the issues related to the next phase. 

“When we are ready to move into that next phase, I will ensure that there is enough time for preparation and for staff to carry out any necessary training.”

Margaret Davies, Head of St Christopher’s School in Wrexham, said:

“We’ve been fortunate to be working alongside the Welsh Government and head teachers on our return to school plans. Basing plans on the most up-to-date information and evidence has given me the confidence that, when we are ready to open our schools, this will be done as safely as possible.

Gwenllian Lansdown-Davies, Chief Executive of Mudiad Meithrin, said:

“I’m glad to be invited to contribute to the work, given the innate importance of the sector in its own right and how integral it will be to the re-openings of schools as well.”

Simon Pirotte, Chief Executive of Bridgend College, added:

“Our Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has been quite clear that the health and well-being of our staff and learners is paramount and decisions will be based on a solid bank of evidence. I’m confident that, through working together in Wales, we can manage this transition”