(Title Image: via Senedd TV)
Last week, the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), announced that schools will open to all students at the start of the 2020-21 academic year on 1st September 2020 – though there will be some exceptions, such as children who have received a shielding letter.
Schools have recently reopened to a third of students at a time following their closure for several months due to coronavirus pandemic lockdown restrictions.
As part of the plans, students will be placed into contact groups of up to 30 pupils who will generally be kept apart from other groups unless it’s completely unavoidable (i.e. school transport). Fines for non-attendance will effectively be suspended for the first half-term of the new school year and kept under review. However, all children who are otherwise able to attend school (i.e. not required to shield for medical reasons, no symptoms of Covid-19) will be expected to go, with any concerns discussed with staff.
Schools will be expected to take measures such as introducing one-way systems, continued social distancing between members of staff and improved hand and surface hygiene.
The Minister said: “Every decision we have made has been backed by the latest available scientific and medical guidance. Thanks to Wales’s cautious and careful approach, Covid-19’s presence in our communities is declining. In the expectation that this will continue, the advice to me is that schools can plan to open in September, with all pupils present.”
Additionally, the Minister announced a £29million recruitment drive to attract 600 new teachers and 900 new teaching assistants to the profession, with support aimed at Years 11-13.