All pupils in Wales to return in September with schools at ‘full capacity’

Education Minister Kirsty Williams. Picture by the Welsh Government

All students in Wales will return in September with schools at “full capacity” and only limited social distancing measures in place, it was confirmed today.

There will however be a fortnight of flexibility at the start of term in recognition that schools may want to focus on priority year groups, such as those new to secondary schools, those sitting exams next summer or those in reception classes.

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, made the announcement at the Welsh Government’s daily press conference.

The Welsh Technical Advisory Group, which provides scientific and technical advice to Government during emergencies, this week recommended to the Minister that schools “plan to open in September with 100% of pupils physically present on school sites, subject to a continuing, steady decline in the presence of COVID-19 in the community.”

The paper which includes this advice will be published today.

The Minister announced that:

  • Schools will return to full capacity, with only limited social distancing within contact groups.
  • The autumn term will start on 1st September.
  • At full operations, a contact group should consist of around 30 children. Some direct or indirect mixing between children in different contact groups “will also be unavoidable”.
  • Social distancing for adults should remain in line with regulations and guidance.
  • Schools will continue to implement hand and surface hygiene, one-way systems and other measures.
  • Each school will be provided with a supply of home testing kits.

On childcare, work will take place with the childcare sector over the summer to increase the size of the contact groups and to support the gradual move towards full operations, Kirsty Williams said.

 

‘Maximum learning’

Speaking at the Welsh Government daily briefing today, the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams said that Covid-19 had caused “devastation, especially to our young people”.

“I have been clear throughout this pandemic that our priority must be to deliver maximum learning with minimal disruption for our young people,” she said.

“Every decision we have made has been backed by the latest available scientific and medical guidance. Thanks to Wales’s cautious and careful approach, Covid’s presence in our communities is declining.

“In the expectation that this will continue, the advice to me is that schools can plan to open in September, with all pupils present.”

‘Disruption’

Councillor Ian Roberts, Welsh Local Government Agency Spokesperson for Education, welcomed the Education Minister’s plan.

“Since schools closed at the start of the crisis, many children and young people have felt anxious about loss of learning and not being able to see their friends,” he said.

“The Minister’s plan today will enable schools to safely reopen classrooms from September. Local authorities will work closely with their schools to make sure that necessary arrangements are in place to abide by Welsh Government guidance.

“Our schools have been hit by severe disruption during this pandemic, and we welcome the £29m pledged by the Minister for targeted support to minimise the effects of the past few months on pupils.”

 

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