Wales’ schools could start to reopen after February half term, First Minister will say today
Schools in Wales could begin reopening after the February half term, the First Minister will say today.
Mark Drakeford will confirm that the youngest learners in primary school could begin returning to school towards the end of February, if rates of coronavirus continue to fall.
Spring half term is from the 15th to 22nd of February this year. The Welsh Government will work with schools and education partners on a phased and flexible return if the public health situation continues to improve, they said.
The First Minister will today, however, confirm alert level four lockdown restrictions will remain in place in Wales for at least the next three weeks, until any change is announced on Friday, February 19.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said that because of ICU bed occupancy there would be “no further opening up of education this side of half term and current arrangements will remain in place”.
“However, when conditions allow, opening up education is the Welsh Government’s top priority. If rates of the virus continue to fall, we plan for pupils to begin returning from the 22nd of February starting with our youngest learners in primary school.
“While we’re trying to provide some clarity to parents, learners and teachers, we must remember that this depends on the virus transmission rates continuing to fall and all of us doing our bit to keep Wales safe.”
The plan to look at re-opening schools at the end of February stands in contrast with England, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that 8 March is the earliest date on which schoolchildren could return to the classroom.
The Prime Minister promised that in the week of 22 February the government would set out a “gradual and phased approach towards easing the restrictions in a sustainable way”.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is set to make an announcement regarding re-opening schools on Tuesday, February 2.
It was previously announced by the First Minister of Scotland that schools would remain closed until at least mid-February.
In Wales rates of coronavirus have fallen below 200 cases per 100,000 people for the first time since early November.
While the situation in Wales is improving, lockdown restrictions must continue for another three weeks to allow the NHS to recover, Mark Drakeford will say.
More than 10% of the Welsh population have now received their first Covid-19 jab with 72% of care home residents vaccinated.