Today Kirsty Williams MS, Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Secretary, has unveiled her plans to begin a phased re-opening of schools from 29th June.
All children will have the opportunity to “Check in, Catch Up, Prepare for summer and September”. It is proposed that all schools will start the next phase on the 29th June, with the term extended by a week, therefore ending on 27th July.
In each school there will be a phased approach. Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.
There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience, getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.
Further Education colleges are ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15th June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners. This follows close working with Government and the joint trade unions.
Guidance for childcare providers will also be published in the next week, supporting them to increase the numbers of children in attendance alongside schools.
Kirsty Williams MS said:
“My announcement today gives schools three and a half weeks to continue preparing for the next phase. We will use the last weeks of the summer term to make sure pupils, staff and parents are prepared – mentally, emotionally and practically – for the new normal in September.
“29th of June means that there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect, which will continue to expand. I can also announce that teachers will be a priority group in our new antibody-testing programme. As we continue to keep Wales safe, this approach will be critical.
“The evolving science suggests that warm weather and sunlight gives us the best opportunity to ensure more time in school. Waiting until September would mean almost half a year without schooling. That would be to the detriment to the wellbeing, learning progress and mental health of our young people.
“This is and has been a worrying period for us all. I know that many will feel apprehensive. We have not rushed this work and this decision. The three and a half week period before the next phase also gives us time to keep watch on developments elsewhere and provides further check-points to review evidence and the roll-out of testing.
“This is the best practical option that meets my five principles which underpin my decision making. Working together we will secure equity and excellence for pupils as they check in, catch up, and prepare for summer and September.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds added:
"Once again Kirsty Williams is setting the bar with regards to how a Government should be communicating at times like this.
"She has clearly laid out her plans, and the rationale behind them, in an upfront manner. This will give parents, children and teaching staff the reassurance they need.
"The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to getting our children back in the classroom and learning as soon as possible, but only when it is safe to do so.
"I am therefore pleased to see that no child is forced to go back, especially those who are shielding themselves or who have family that are shielding.”