Schools in Wales could reopen in early June

Schools in Wales could reopen in early June

Schools in Wales could reopen in early June

Schools in Wales could reopen in early June

Welsh schools could reopen their doors next month as part of a phased approach, the first minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said the earliest point schools could resume would be the beginning of June.

He said a minimum of three weeks was needed to prepare from the time it was decided it is safe for pupils and teachers.

On Sunday, Mr Drakeford told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Our advice from the trade unions and from the local education authorities is that you will need three weeks as a minimum from the point that we decide to do that, to when schools can reopen, so we are talking about the beginning of June.”

Some groups could return earlier than others, he said, using examples of year-six children who are due to move up to secondary school, and Welsh medium pupils who may not have had opportunities to use the language at home during lockdown.

“I think of this in a phased way. We’re not going to have all the children back in all the schools on the first day,” he said.

“We get those children in whom we have the greatest priority to begin with, we monitor that carefully, we add more children in as we are confident that we can do that safely.

“Over time, we will get back to something like the normal we were used to.”

Mr Drakeford also said work was under way to make sure social distancing guidance was followed and to persuade parents, teachers and pupils that the school environment was safe, saying “you certainly can’t have schools reopen as they did before”.

Responding to his comments, Eithne Hughes, director of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, later called for “caution” against fixing a date for school reopening.

She said: “The first minister has indicated that schools could reopen at the beginning of June. We would caution against fixing a date in stone at this stage and to make sure the conditions are right first of all.

“We are happy to plan towards a proposed date but we would urge that it is clearly stated from the outset that it is moveable if more time is needed.

“Exactly how this is managed will need to be guided by public health and scientific advice to ensure that pupils, parents and staff can have confidence that it is safe to return to schools.”

It comes as the head of Ofsted said there is a “great deal of logic” in allowing the nation’s youngest children to return to school first when the lockdown lifts.

Amanda Spielman said younger pupils need “routine” and, from parents’ perspectives, are those who need the most “care and oversight”.

In an interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, the Ofsted chief inspector also said it is in all children’s best interests that they return to the classroom “as soon as possible”, but there is no single “no-brainer answer” on how to do so.

Ms Spielman told the show: “There’s a great deal of logic in targeting younger children.

“We know that making normality for children is really important, the younger the children, the more they need that simple structured routine where they understand what’s happening.

“It’s hard for them to go to school one day and then not for another two weeks. So I entirely recognise and see the logic of this.

“I also think there’s a logic from the point of view of parents. The youngest children are the ones who need the greatest care and oversight.

“It’s hardest for parents to work and do all the other things they need to do if they’re also looking after perhaps several young children at the same time and trying to make sure they work through schoolwork remotely.

“If you look at the interests of children, it’s very clear that their interests are best served, in the vast majority of cases, by being back at school as soon as possible.”

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