Parents in Flintshire told to prepare for return to school of youngest pupils
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Parents in Flintshire are being told to prepare for a return to school for younger children as planned on February 22.
The local authority has said it will be following the Welsh Government’s preferred return date for primary school pupils aged three to seven.
It comes despite neighbouring Wrexham Council taking a more cautious stance in light of high coronavirus infection rates in the county borough.
Officials said yesterday (Wednesday, 10 February) that children will not be returning to schools in Wrexham until February 26 at the very earliest.
The decision was made with the current seven-day number of cases per 100,000 of the population standing at 217.7.
However, although Flintshire has a similar rate at 203.7, education leaders there have said they are sticking to the government’s plans as it stands.
A Flintshire Council spokesperson said: “At the current time, Flintshire schools are being directed to prepare for the reopening of face to face provision for foundation phase pupils from February 22 onwards.
“This is in line with the Welsh Government decision to bring some learners back into schools while other lockdown restrictions remain in place.
“The council carefully monitors the incidence rate and test positivity rate daily, and expects both to continue to fall steadily over the coming weeks.
“However, should the public health situation become a cause for concern ahead of February 22 then the decision to reopen schools for foundation phase pupils will be reviewed.”
Schools across Wales are currently only open to vulnerable children and those whose parents are key workers, with all others learning from home.
Last week, the Welsh Government announced plans for primary schools to return to the classroom after the February half-term.
It followed a drop in the national infection rate, although figures remain higher in north east Wales than other areas.
As part of the return, twice weekly testing of school staff will be carried out and additional funding will be made available for face coverings.
In an open letter to headteachers, Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “As a government we have always said that schools would be the last to close and the first to open, when the evidence shows it is safe to do so.
“But we now have some hope. Community transmission rates of COVID-19 are much lower than in January, when I took the decision not to reopen to face to face learning other than for children of critical workers vulnerable learners and special schools and pupil referral units, and all other indicators are heading in the right direction.
“Our Technical Advisory Group, scientists and public health officials who advise government, have published a paper in which they advise that the improvement in the public health situation allows us to consider a “partial and phased return to face-to-face learning in schools”.”
Ms Williams said there would be some flexibility to the arrangement over the first week, but with all foundation pupils in school by the end of the week.
Any further phased return for other year groups will be considered as part of the next 21 day review on February 19.