Wales' schools return policy 'second-best option' says Chief Medical Officer

4 June 2020, 18:19

Daniel Bevan

By Daniel Bevan

Wales’ Chief Medical Officer has labelled the Welsh Government’s school policy for re-opening schools as the "second-best option."

Dr Frank Atherton also claimed the reason why the decision was made to open schools on June 29th, as opposed to in August as he had recommended, was because it wasn’t approved by unions.

Speaking at today’s Welsh Government daily coronavirus briefing, he told reporters: “My preferred option would have been to re-open the schools towards the end of summer, in August, to give us a little bit more time.

“I understand that was not attractive to the unions so we’ve got a second-best option. we’re going to re-open schools at the end of June for a short period of time.

“It [schools] will have very different arrangements so that can be done safely.

“We do need to monitor and track [the spread of the virus] but it will be for a limited amount of time.

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"It will give us the summer to understand what has happened to the levels of infection."

Wales Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, hit back with a statement on her Twitter account, saying: "The decision to enable children to have some time in school ahead of the summer break puts the safety and wellbeing of learners first and foremost and is fully in line with the latest scientific advice.

"We also explored reopening schools later in the summer but this would have involved a complete structural change to the school year.

“Both approaches were fully endorsed by The Chief Medical Officer and the Wales COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group.

"We will continue to work closely with Dr Atherton over the next three and half weeks as we prepare to move into the next phase of education.”

Yesterday Kirsty Williams revealed parents who do not send their children back to school this summer will not be fined for doing so.