Coronavirus: The school 'hubs' open daily over the Easter holidays

By Tomos Morgan
BBC News

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media captionChildren describe their new school experiences during the pandemic

Usually, Llanishen Fach Primary School would have 540 pupils attending in any given school week.

And usually, the school in Rhiwbina, Cardiff, would be shut over the Easter holidays, but these are unusual times.

The school, like several others across Wales, is open, looking after the children of designated parents during this crucial time.

It has registered about 90 pupils during the coronavirus outbreak but it has not had more than 30 each day so far.

That is usually down to parents having varying shift patterns, or doing their best to stick to government protocols to keep their children at home.

This is one of Cardiff's largest "hubs" - a safe environment for children from six schools.

"It's been very different, that's for sure," says Annie James, the deputy head teacher.

"We're very much now not a school.

"It's very much a childcare provision and we're focusing on the well-being of the children and caring and supporting them in this really difficult time.

"We're just happy we can do our bit to support the parents so they can continue to carry out vital jobs and essential services."

In the neighbouring Vale of Glamorgan, Ysgol y Deri in Penarth is a special needs school acting as a hub with two other mainstream primary schools.

It has a maximum capacity of 29 pupils on any given day and is open seven days a week, for seven hours a day, and aims to be as flexible as possible for the parents that need childcare.

During the Easter holidays there will be just over 400 hubs open across Wales, with space for 3,000 children whose parents will need childcare during this period - less than 1% of the usual school population.

Although it can be hard with young children who just want to play with their friends, the staff at the hubs are doing everything they can to adhere to social distancing guidelines by:

  • Keeping children two metres apart, on different tables when inside
  • Spending far more time outside and apart during the good weather
  • Creating small groups of children at opposite ends of the school in different classrooms

A week ago, one child tested positive for Covid-19 at Llanishen Fach Primary School and has been isolating.

No other pupils or staff have shown any symptoms.

image captionDeputy head teacher Annie James: "We could keep going as long as we need to now"

How long can things go on like this for our schools?

For Annie James at Llanishen Fach, it can continue as long as needed.

"I mean, we now... have all of our systems and so forth into place," she said.

"There are little refinements to make, but we could keep going as long as we need to now.

"We've set up the rotations of staff, the activities [are] planned, and we'll obviously just have to see how long the situation continues.

"We're also providing home learning for our pupils who aren't in school so that they can continue more educational tasks.

"But, again, it's not meant to be school at home.

"We don't want parents to feel pressured that they feel they have to replicate what they would be doing in school either.

"So, we're supporting our parents with types of activities they can do at home as well."

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