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Drakeford confident schools will stay open despite the surge in Delta Covid cases

25 Jun 2021 3 minute read
Photo by Alexandra Koch from Pixabay

Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said he sees no reason to instruct schools to move to distanced learning even though Delta Covid variant transmission is on the rise.

Speaking at today’s Welsh Government coronavirus briefing he brushed off suggestions schools should close because of the surge.

Cases of coronavirus more than doubled in a week within Wales, up to 1,100, with four of the six North Wales counties having a seven-day rate higher than 50 infections per 100,000 people.

The biggest rise in cases seems to be in the under-25 age group but Mr Drakeford saw no case for reducing contact time in schools by ordering remote learning.

He said: “We don’t have, at the moment, any active plans to restrict learning.

“There are only a small number of weeks left in this school term and schools are very carefully run and organised to keep the virus at bay.

“Unlike in England we haven’t removed mask wearing in schools despite the discomfort I know that causes to people who wear them all day long.

“We have thousands of lateral flow tests being used every week now to try to minimise disruption.

“Unfortunately, where it is necessary, we are having to send people home for self-isolation and that has risen in schools in Wales over the last couple of weeks.”

He said the current assessment was the measures were sufficient to allow schools and colleges to operate safely for the remaining weeks of term.

‘Top priority’

The First Minister said keeping children in education had been his Government’s “top priority”.

He added: “(It’s) because we know of the strongly disadvantageous impact which further disruption to children’s education will pose to them.

“So, we continue to do everything to find ways of keeping our schools open and our children offered the education they need – and which will stand them in the best stead as they go into the new autumn term.”

There also seems to be no appetite among local authorities to move back to distanced learning despite a number of schools sending pupils home to self-isolate in recent weeks.

More than 400 were told to self-isolate in Denbigh and Ruthin recently after young people attended a series of gatherings which led to more than 50 cases of Covid.

Around 60 sixth form pupils in Caernarfon were told to self-isolate this week, and in a separate incident 80 secondary school students in Bangor were told to stay at home.

Meanwhile a headteacher in Wrexham blasted pupils’ “reckless behaviour” which he said was leading to more and more students needing to self-isolate.

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