Welsh Minister pledges '100% of all children' will go back to school in September

9 July 2020, 15:00

Children dance on a measured and painted socially distanced circle in the playground as they wait to be picked up by their parents at Llanishen Fach Primary School in Cardiff
Children dance on a measured and painted socially distanced circle in the playground as they wait to be picked up by their parents at Llanishen Fach Primary School in Cardiff. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Welsh school children will go back to school in September with all pupils in attendance, it has been revealed.

The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has today confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September.

Schools in Wales reopened for a three to four-week term at reduced capacity on June 29 with staggered starts, lessons, and breaks for pupils, but there have been calls for ministers to set out a September return plan.

The Welsh Technical Advisory Group, which provides scientific and technical advice to the Welsh Government, has now recommended that schools "plan to open in September with 100% of pupils physically present on school sites" subject to the continued decline of Covid-19.

Under the return plans, schools will only need to operate with "limited social distancing" within contact groups of around 30 children, with recognition direct or indirect mixing between children in different contact groups will also be unavoidable, such as on school transport.

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Schools will also be provided with a supply of Covid-19 home testing kits.

On Thursday, Ms Williams said the autumn term would start on September 1 and schools that can accommodate all pupils from the start of the term should do so.

She said: "We all know the devastation Covid-19 has caused, especially to our young people.

"I have been clear throughout this pandemic that our priority must be to deliver maximum learning with minimal disruption for our young people.

"Every decision we have made has been backed by the latest available scientific and medical guidance. Thanks to Wales's cautious and careful approach, Covid's presence in our communities is declining.

"In the expectation that this will continue, the advice to me is that schools can plan to open in September, with all pupils present."

Councillor Ian Roberts, Welsh Local Government Association spokesperson for education, said: "Since schools closed at the start of the crisis, many children and young people have felt anxious about loss of learning and not being able to see their friends.

"The minister's plan today will enable schools to safely reopen classrooms from September. Local authorities will work closely with their schools to make sure that necessary arrangements are in place to abide by Welsh Government guidance."

Councillor Ian Roberts, WLGA Spokesperson for Education, said: “Since schools closed at the start of the crisis, many children and young people have felt anxious about loss of learning and not being able to see their friends. The Minister’s plan today will enable schools to safely reopen classrooms from September. Local authorities will work closely with their schools to make sure that necessary arrangements are in place to abide by Welsh Government guidance.

“Our schools have been hit by severe disruption during this pandemic, and we welcome the £29m pledged by the Minister for targeted support to minimise the effects of the past few months on pupils. We will continue to work together in partnership the safest and best possible learning experiences for our children and young people, especially in such challenging circumstances.”

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