Some schools in two Welsh counties may not reopen for face-to-face learning
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Some schools in Wrexham and Flintshire may not be able to reopen for face-to-face learning, it is feared.
Schools in both counties are currently due to welcome pupils back on Monday (January 10, 2022) following two planning days at the end of this week to allow them to prepare for the new term.
But this being kept under review ahead of next week amid uncertainty over staff absence levels. With coronavirus cases on the rise due to the spread of the Omicron variant, it remains unclear whether all schools will have enough staff to return to face-to-face learning.
Headteachers and local education authority officials are due to meet later in the week before confirming the final arrangements.
Wrexham Council’s lead member for education Cllr Phil Wynn said the aim was to ensure as little disruption as possible.
Speaking at a media briefing held today (Tuesday, 4 January), he said: “Teaching staff will be back in school on Thursday and Friday in preparation for reopening on Monday.
“But at this moment in time we can’t say what that will look like on Monday and that’s the reality of the situation.
“We’re not aware of the data as regards to how many teachers have been affected by Covid over the Christmas period or are likely to catch it between now and Monday.
“We’ll meet up with the heads’ federations on Thursday and Friday to try and gauge the intelligence.
“Then we’ll try and get as many schools reopened on Monday and keep it that way for as long as we can.”
The Welsh Government has asked secondary age pupils and all school staff to use lateral flow tests three times a week in the new term.
Temporary measures introduced at the end of November advising all staff and secondary pupils to use face coverings in communal areas and classrooms where physical distancing cannot be maintained will also remain in place.
It follows schools switching to remote learning for the last few days of the autumn term due to problems maintaining staffing levels.
Flintshire Council leader Ian Roberts, a former teacher, said a return to physical learning would be preferable where possible but would depend on schools having enough cover.
The authority’s cabinet member for education said: “On Thursday morning, headteachers will be assessing the availability of staff they actually have for their institution.
“They will report as soon as they can on Friday to the chief education officer on what the staffing situation is.
“Once we have seen what that is, a meeting has been programmed to discuss the situation and it won’t be until then that decisions are made.
“Hopefully schools will return as the best way to educate children is face to face in the classroom but we have to base it on what’s safe for children and staff.”
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