PRIMARY school kids will start returning to class in Wales from February 22, it was announced today – as ministers consider lengthening the school day to help kids catch up.
Kids aged between three and seven in Wales will return to the classroom first, Wales’ education minister Kirsty Williams said.
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Young kids are being was prioritised because they were the least likely to transmit coronavirus, and had more pronounced difficulties with remote learning, she said.
Teachers will be able to get tested twice a week to try and boost confidence in the return to classrooms, too.
Ms Williams told the Welsh Government’s press briefing: “We have been clear that our children’s education is a priority throughout this pandemic.
“Sadly, we are not yet in a position to be able to see a full return to school for every learner.
“However, thanks to people following our national guidance, there is sufficient headroom for us to bring back some of our learners in a phased, flexible and progressive way.”
She added: “As we all know, you only get one childhood, which is exactly why we are all working so hard to support young people back into schools so they can learn with their friends.”
Like in England, vulnerable kids and the children of key workers have been allowed to still come into school during the current lockdown.
Wales – like Scotland – went into a national shutdown before England did, with shops shut around Christmas-time.
So their case rates have had longer to go down.
The country’s R number is estimated to be between 0.7 and 0.9, while its seven-day case rate is 130 cases per 100,000 of the population.
Scotland this week also announced plans for its youngest pupils to return to the classrooms from after half-term, piling pressure on Boris Johnson to follow suit.
But the PM has insisted it’s still too early for England, as the cases are still too high and more than 30,000 people are still in hospital.
The PM said he “understands people want to go further” and get back to normal as quickly as possible – and insisted: “I share that urgency.”
But he vowed not to open schools too soon or there was a huge risk the nation could be “forced into reverse” and would have to turn on the brakes once again.
The PM added: “This is the cautious approach, its much better to stick to that.”
Boris has said he wants kids to start returning to class from March 8.
It came as ministers are said to be receptive to plans to extend the school day to help them catch up with the months of lost education.
Chair of the Education Committee, Robert Halfon, is said to be pushing for this idea, and ministers are open to it.
School buildings may be used but voulunteers and community groups may help out out of hours.
Ministers have said there will be a £1.3billion catch-up programme but they have yet to spell out the details.
Government sources stressed it was too early to be making decisions but they would consider a range of options.
No10 refused to rule out the suggestion today, saying: “The pm has acknowledged that the, that extended school closures have had a huge impact on pupils learning, which will take clearly take time to make up.
“We’re absolutely committed to working with parents, teachers and schools to develop in a long term plan to make sure peoples have the chance to make up their learning.”
It’s expected schools will be the first thing to return when lockdown rules are finally lifted.
He will look at the data in the second week of February and then set out a roadmap back to normality for the nation the next week.
Schools and getting kids back to class are the priority for the Government, he said earlier this week.