Welsh Government urged to re-think its plans for school return following Christmas break
The Welsh Government has been urged to re-think its plans for education to resume following the Christmas break.
Pupils at some schools in Wales are expected to return as soon as Wednesday (January 6), with others following on January 11 after ministers agreed a “flexible” approach with local authorities.
However, with a new variant of the coronavirus spreading across Wales, teachers’ unions want face-to-face teaching to be suspended until schools are able to review their risk assessments.
Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: “We understand that the Welsh Government is seeking to strike a balance between minimising the risk of transfer of COVID-19 and providing face to face education for all children.
“However, the latest data shows that in large parts of Wales, control of infection has been lost and the lack of understanding regarding the new strain has now created intolerable risk to many school communities.
“It is simply unacceptable for schools to remain open when there is such a question mark over the impact the new variant will have and we will not sit back and let this happen without calling the Welsh Government to account, for the sake of the whole school community.”
The union has asked the government to take the following steps:
- Move all schools to home learning for a brief and determined period for most children.
- During this time, proper support to make the home learning experience as good as it can be should be provided. That includes technology and learning resources but also the flexibility for school leaders to respond to their circumstances.
- The government should then establish a lateral flow testing regime for schools in place of the proposal which would see school staff leading the testing effort.
- Work should be undertaken with school leaders and Public Health Wales to establish and agree new Covid-related safety measures in schools during the temporary restriction.
- Urgently review its approach to special schools to protect all staff and pupils in those communities.
- Immediately prioritise vaccinations in education
- Then agree an orderly return
Ms Doel continued: “We believe that it is wrong to keep people in harm’s way whilst the implications of the new variant of the virus are still being discovered.
“The currently available information contains no solid scientific evidence regarding the impact of the new variant on schools.
“In particular, there is nothing that outlines the risks to pupils and teachers of maintaining in-person tuition.
“With this in mind we had begun legal proceedings against the government to force them to disclose the scientific information they are withholding.
“We have asked the Welsh Government to share the evidence justifying the distinctions drawn between primary and secondary schools, the geographical distinctions between Wales and England and the evidence that is being used to underpin the decision that schools’ plans do not need to change despite the emergence of the new variant of Covid in the UK.”
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