Covid: UK-wide school reopening plan 'would make sense'

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image captionSchools may reopen in England from 8 March

A UK-wide policy for reopening schools would make sense, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart has said.

Mr Hart said differences between the nations on schools policy are confusing for parents and children.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given the date of 8 March "at the earliest" for the reopening of schools in England, which have been closed across the UK during lockdown.

The Welsh Government is yet to set such a date.

There have been calls for ministers to say what milestones should be reached before children return to classrooms.

On Wednesday Education Minister Kirsty Williams said the situation had not changed in Wales and the first minister would be providing an update on Friday.

Asked by BBC Wales whether he would like to see a similar target in set in Wales, Mr Hart said: "I always think, and I thought right from the beginning, that if we can do these things on a UK-wide basis, it makes sense.

"It makes sense because public compliance is easier to achieve that way, people understand exactly what the rules are, what the restraints are, what the support might be, whether it's financial or otherwise."

He said where there are differences on Covid rules between the four nations "it can be a bit confusing for parents and businesses and even kids too for that matter".

But, asked if he thought the Welsh Government should provide a detailed plan for coming out of lockdown, he said that setting out timescales for lifting restrictions "is quite risky".

image captionSimon Hart said UK-wide coronavirus policies make "sense"

The Welsh secretary said Covid "doesn't follow a predictable pattern".

"The danger of me standing here now and saying it'll definitely be like this is it probably, definitely won't," he said.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "As the first minister has said on many occasions, where we can work together as four nations it makes sense to do so.

"However, education is devolved to Wales and any decision on schools will be made by the first minister and the education minister."

Call for teachers to be vaccinated

Meanwhile Plaid Cymru has accused Labour of being split on making teachers a priority for vaccinations.

While UK Labour has called for all teachers to be vaccinated in England, the Welsh Government has declined to put them in a priority list.

Plaid Cymru's education spokeswoman Siân Gwenllian said that the safety of all pupils and school staff should be the main driver of policy in preparation for the reopening of schools.

"When it comes to vaccinating teachers, the Labour Party is facing both ways in Westminster and in Wales," she said.

The party called for teachers to be vaccinated before schools reopen.

The Welsh Government said: "We are following the priority groups set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and all people in the highest priority groups will be immunised as safely and as soon as possible.

"Teaching staff, whose role it is to provide intimate personal care for some of our most vulnerable students (in school or college) with complex medical needs, are included as part of the priority list for vaccination along with social care workers.".

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