Welsh Government hoping to set date for phased return of schools this week

PARENTS and children may know by the end of the week whether schools in Wales will be reopening after half-term.

Welsh Government minister Eluned Morgan said negotiations are continuing this week in the hope of being able to make an announcement on Friday (February 5).

A phased return to the classroom, starting with primary school children, could begin after the February half-term break if coronavirus cases continue to fall in Wales.

If primary pupils are able to return to school after half-term, it would put Wales ahead of the other UK nations.

In England pupils are not expected to return before March 8, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Ms Morgan, minister for mental health, wellbeing and welsh language, said: “We are absolutely determined to reopen schools as early as possible and that’s why there will be intensive discussions with unions this week to make sure that we can put all of the things in place so that we can ensure the safety, as far as possible, of the students and teachers.

“We have to keep an eye on the levels of virus within our communities, and we will always be looking to the scientific evidence to support us in what we are doing.”

Ms Morgan told the Welsh Government briefing that First Minister Mark Drakeford has already said he wants to give parents, pupils and teaching staff two weeks’ notice before a phased return begins.

“We’re expecting an announcement on that on Friday but of course that will be determined by those negotiations that will be held this week,” she said.

“The focus will absolutely be on those children who are youngest, who find it most difficult to learn online and need that socialisation perhaps more than some of the older children.

“We are very determined to try and get those foundation phase children back to school as soon as possible.”

Ms Morgan said the Welsh Government is also looking at ways of getting older students studying vocational courses back into the classroom.

“That is why, if we can, we would like to get those students back to school on those more vocational practical courses, so that they can be assessed correctly,” she said.

“Of course, those negotiations will continue, and there will be an effort to make sure that those children, and those peoples can be assessed properly, irrespective of the situation we’re in.”

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno