Wales

Coronavirus: School reopening plans needed, union says

Parents taking their children to school
Image caption Marlborough Primary School in Cardiff welcomed back 95 pupils on Monday

There is a "serious risk" schools will not be ready to reopen in September if the Welsh Government does not publish plans by Monday, according to a teaching union.

The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) Cymru said its members were frustrated they do not yet have details of what ministers expect.

The Welsh Government said an update will be given in the "coming days".

Schools reopened this week for a short return before the summer holidays.

The NAHT said school staff cannot be expected to work through that summer break as many have "worked continually since February", and if plans for September were not published by Monday there would not be enough time to implement them.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams has said she expects "blended learning" - a mix of school time and online work at home - to continue for some time, but has not ruled out a full return to school in September.

In a letter to Ms Williams, NAHT Cymru director Laura Doel said it was "unacceptable" that schools, parents and pupils did not know "at this late stage" what to plan for in the autumn term.

"Without immediate publication of your expectations of schools and your detailed advice in support of those expectations, it will be impossible for leaders to plan and implement effectively," Ms Doel wrote.

"Up until now, the clarity provided by the Welsh Government regarding schools has enabled school leaders to plan and deliver effectively.

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Media captionCoronavirus: Pupils back in Welsh schools after three months

"But a lack of clarity now, at this most sensitive moment, risks putting children in Wales at a serious and unnecessary disadvantage when they return in September."

In the absence of fresh guidance, the NAHT wants the education minister to confirm:

  • That the Welsh Government will require the current social distancing guidance of two metres to be maintained in schools
  • That the Welsh Government will continue to work with trade unions and other stakeholders throughout the summer on catch-up plans when schools return
  • That the Welsh Government will delay any announcement that restrictions will ease in schools until after the summer break as staff will not be available to implement those changes

The letter adds that head teachers fear a "failed September return" would do "more harm to education than continuing with the current arrangement".

Image copyright Matthew Horwood/Welsh Government
Image caption Child's play... pupils returned to Roath Primary School this week

Dylan Saer, head teacher at Crwys Primary School, Gower, said: "I don't think people realise how hard schools have had to work even though they aren't open, and school staff are shattered.

"I think it's slightly unfair to expect staff to go back to school over the summer holidays to prepare for September," he told BBC Radio Cymru's Post Cyntaf programme.

"It's only fair on school staff, and also for parents, to have time to prepare for September if we are to see changes."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Wales is the only UK nation where all pupils have been given the opportunity to attend school before the summer holidays, to see their teachers and classmates and to 'check in, catch up and prepare' for summer and September.

"Good practice and evidence from this current period is helping inform school operations for the future.

"Wales is in a unique position in having this opportunity, and that is thanks to the efforts of heads, teachers and wider school staff.

"Health and scientific advice is evolving, and having to look ahead a further two months is an added challenge.

"The education minister is looking at that advice and evidence and will provide a further update in the coming days."

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