Welsh Government ‘must confirm when schools are going to close’
Plaid Cymru has called for the Welsh Government to “urgently” clarify when schools will close because of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Shadow Education Minister for Education Sian Gwenllian also said that parents also needed more clarity on whether they were now allowed to take children out of schools.
She said this was “an incredibly concerning time for parents, teachers, and pupils” and called for “confirmation” so that parents and teachers could be “reassured” and could plan ahead.
Sian Gwenllian added that whilst schools remained officially open, many of them would have to “go against many of the public guidelines” in order to continue their work.
“We know that schools will have to close to flatten the curve and suppress the epidemic, but it currently completely unclear as to when the government will close our schools,” Sian Gwenllian said.
“The Welsh Government and the Education Minister must provide urgent confirmation of when schools are going to close so parents and teachers can be reassured and plan ahead.
“Schools are larger gatherings than any one place people are advised not to go and teachers, teaching assistants, cleaners and catering staff in schools are currently on the frontline of the fight against Coronavirus.
“Whilst schools remain open, they must be prioritised for testing because many of them will still be going to work by public transport, and will have to go against many of the public guidelines in order to continue to learning and providing crucial service and care for our children.
“Furthermore, we need clarity and additional guidance in regards to the closure of special schools because children attending those schools will be particularly vulnerable and at considerable risk of the virus.
“When schools close, we need clarity that safeguards pupils eligible for free school meals and skeleton staff provision for children of key NHS and public sector staff so that they can continue working.
“The Welsh Government must also provide statutory guidance on school absenteeism. Parents should not be punished for not sending their children to school during this critical time.
“We are yet to hear from the Education Minister what the status of the examinations are in the summer. It’s already a worrying time for pupils with exams looming and what arrangements are in place to evaluate pupils’ work and whether the objective grade will count.”
Today the Welsh Government announced a package of support worth more than £200m for small businesses to help them during the coronavirus outbreak.
Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will receive 100% business rate relief and pubs with a rateable value of between £51,000 and £100,000 will receive a £5,000 reduction on their bill.
A further £100m will be available for a new grant scheme for small businesses Further details on this new grant scheme will be confirmed as soon as possible.
Announcing the decision, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “I’m pleased we can offer this package of support to businesses as part of our response to the coronavirus outbreak. We are allocating every penny of the funding we will be receiving as a consequence of the schemes the UK Government announced in England last week to support businesses in Wales.
“But I know that helping businesses with their rates bills will not be enough to protect them from the severe drop in custom many are experiencing as coronavirus cases increase.
“We will be calling on the UK Government to act quickly and decisively to provide a very significant support package for vulnerable businesses and their employees.”
Welsh Conservative AM Russell George, the Shadow Minister for Economy, today welcomed the news.
“We are still in the very early stages of this outbreak, and Welsh Conservatives welcome the step taken today, which must be seen in the context of the full £475m given to combat the effects on the SME sector of Coronavirus,” he said.
“Of course, we shall still scrutinise how these funds are allocated and would expect them to be targeted at mitigating the effects of Coronavirus on the SME sector.”